June 25, 2012
Shortly after sunrise near Pipeline Road in Panama’s Soberania National Park, Ioana Chiver plants two poles in the ground and pulls bunches of netting out of a canvas bag
Shortly after sunrise near Pipeline Road in Panama’s Soberania National Park, Ioana Chiver plants two poles in the ground and pulls bunches of netting out of a canvas bag.
When it is first strung between poles, the mist net looks like a Halloween witch’s wig. Ioana works her own magic, as mosquitoes whine in harmony around her head, to untangle it and make it disappear against a background of green-fruited Psychotria shrubs and swirly stems of orange-flowered Renealmia.
Ioana’s been migrating between York University in Canada and Panama since 2006, watching and recording the calls of birds that live here year-round. Unlike Canada’s mostly insectivorous birds, her Red-throated Anttanagers eat and feed their young a mixed diet of insects and fruit. How does a bird’s diet affect timing of reproduction and mate choice?
Now in that purgatory of revising papers after a successful PhD defence, Ioana is wondering how often fruit eating is associated with increased courtship behaviour and multiple mating.
A bird in the hand is hard won but yields much information: size, weight, overall health and a blood sample, which lets Ioana know if it is related to both members of a nest pair or only its mother.