Bird Observer: The Birding Journal for New England

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

April 2015

Vol. 43, No. 2

Gleanings: Serendipity and Science

David M. Larson


Golden-winged Warbler (Photograph by Dennis Cooke, CC BY-NC 2.0)

One of the great technical advances of recent times that has allowed for fine-tuning of our understanding of many aspects of bird behavior has been the invention and improvement of geolocators. Often deployed on birds captured on their breeding or wintering grounds, these recorders can provide data on the location of birds for up to a year. They can be useful in helping to plot the annual movements of individual birds and the differences in migratory patterns of subpopulations of a species (Larson 2014). The geolocators are small and have no transmitter capability, so the birds have to be recaptured in order to read the data.

An important skill in science is the ability to recognize the existence and importance of serendipity in data collection. When you combine geolocator data with serendipity, you may discover some interesting phenomena. And this is the crux of the article described here.

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