Banding birds at the BioBlitz

By Sean O’Connor

Biscayne National Park, Florida–Migratory birds heading north to breeding grounds in higher latitudes are common visitors to the Florida Keys.

Robin Diaz of the South Florida Bird Observatory tags an American redstart on Elliot Key in Biscayne National Park earlier today.


This little guy is a two-year-old male with almost zero fat on him. The bird needs to eat a lot of insects to beef up his size ahead of the long flight ahead. There are plenty of insects–including voracious swarms of mosquitoes–for the birds to feast on out on Elliot Key, part of the Florida Keys system and located just south of the urban area of Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

Biscayne Bioblitz 2010.jpg

American redsetters spend their winters in the Caribbean, in places like Cuba and the Dominican Republic. But come winter, like many species of birds, they migrate north, sometimes flying thousands of miles to reach their breeding grounds.

American redsetters nest and breed in areas of the Northeast and Midwestern United States and parts of Canada.

Robin, along with scientist and master bird tagger Michelle Davis, caught the specimen in netting designed to safely trap birds.


With gentle handling, they then tag the bird with a small metal clip that includes a unique identifier number. This way, if the bird is caught in a net again, another scientist can record the number and the data can be used to paint a picture of the bird’s migratory patterns.

Data on bird species identified by Michelle and her team at the BioBlitz will be sent to the Patuxent Bird Banding Lab in Maryland, where it can be accessed by scientists around the world.

The data from the 2010 BioBlitz, including pictures from the field, are available to the public for viewing on the National Geographic Fieldscope online mapping tool.



Sean O’Connor is the project coordinator of educational mapping for National Geographic Education. When he’s not creating maps or advising his colleagues on mapping issues, he enjoys researching history, canoeing and kayaking, and exploring the world around him. In his work at NG, Sean has helped to develop the National Geographic FieldScope tool and launch a new suite of dynamic, on-line mapping tools for students and teachers.


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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn