BSU’s Intermountain Bird Observatory
By Janelle Stear
Caring for our Feathered Friends
October—when the leaves change to brilliant colors and Halloween brings excitement for children, Idaho’s native Yellow Warbler will be hanging out with the toucans and parrots in Central America. Meanwhile in the Treasure Valley, the Black-Capped Chickadee birds will still be home, shivering alongside us during the long winter, anticipating spring.
Biologists and volunteers of the BSU Intermountain Bird Observatory (IBO) work diligently. Throughout the summer into October, visitors can come watch the process as the team works together to track the health and changes in birds. For each event, there are two places to watch: the Boise River Site and the Lucky Peak Site (check out directions at https://ibo.boisestate.edu/visit/).
Heidi Ware Carlisle has been the IBO’s Education Outreach Director for the last four years. With two paid biologists, Steve and Gretel, plus eight volunteers, they monitor various birds— Songbirds, Hummingbirds, and Birds of Prey—in order to keep track of the specific birds’ wing size, weight, and approximate age. Steve says that October is a great time to come to their Lucky Peak camp for an overnight experience and observe the owls when they come out at night.
International Study to Track Birds’ Health/Migration
The IBO is part of a study with UCLA tracking migratory patterns to help with conservation efforts throughout North and Central America (learn more at https://www.birdgenoscape.org/). Heidi explains, “UCLA is using DNA to create a genoscape map. We can see where they nest, where they go in the winter, and what changes in the local environments might be affecting them.” As part of the study, the IBO collaborates with other biologists in Canada, U.S., and Mexico to share information. They give each bird a small band with a serial number to put around its leg. They release the birds after recording of the bird’s estimated age, weight, size, and gender.
The IBO is a non-profit organization hosted through the Boise State University Foundation that runs on donations and support from BSU. “We had no Education Director until four years ago. BSU generously gives support to IBO, which supports my job as well as additional support given from private donors. Each year since, we have been fortunate to get the donations we need so we are able to continue our research and outreach,” says Heidi.
To donate, visit give.boisestate.edu/IBO
Part of the IBO’s work is to provide education to the community about the importance of protecting natural habitats. Heidi adds, “We are able to receive some grant money that provides bus fees for students to come down to our river site. By showing children what we do, we can convey the importance of science and conservation.”
IBO Bird Banding Events/Information
Check out IBO’s website at https://ibo.boisestate.edu/ for upcoming events. They will be hosting public field trips to their Lucky Peak station in September and October. To be a visitor, they ask that you register on their website through Eventbrite. Each session is free; however, they do request for a $5 donation per attendee.
Heidi emphasizes to readers, “We love having visitors and we love answering questions!”
Help support the birds! Check out their donation page at give.boisestate.edu/IBO