In search of birds in an ancient "ocean of forest"

Andrea Morales Rozo, who teaches biology at the Universidad de los Llanos in central Colombia, guided the team at the nets, from which th...

Andrea Morales Rozo, who teaches biology at the Universidad de los Llanos in central Colombia, guided the team at the nets, from which they skillfully extracted the unharmed birds. Ms. Morales Rozo studied the black warbler, a species that migrates between the Amazon and Canada; she was part of a group that recently compared museum specimens and birds caught in the field and learned that the warbler the northward range had shifted nearly 400 miles in 45 years.

Dr Cuervo, the leader of the expedition, offered calm, fatherly support to those at the treatment table. It is not always easy to best describe the colors of a bird, for example, and a second opinion was often sought. Was a wing a “green coffee”, greenish brown? Or was it “verde olivazo”, olive green? Was the brood of a female bird, the bare skin that warms the eggs, still smooth or becoming wrinkled?

The MOR-001 struggled in Ms. Soto’s hand as she passed it to her colleague, Jessica Díaz, a field biologist hired for the expeditions. The bird was photographed and recorded. Ms. Díaz worked to extract a tiny amount of blood from her jugular vein with a syringe, squeezing the drops into a vial of alcohol. She then prepared to euthanize him with rapid cardiac compression, using her fingers to apply firm pressure to the bird’s heart. With this technique, the small birds pass out in seconds and die in about half a minute. Large birds are anesthetized.

Ms. Díaz held MOR-001 under the table so she wouldn’t have to look; his colleagues did the same each time it was their turn to sacrifice a bird. “That’s the not fun part,” she said softly.

A few of the group, including Ms. Soto, avoid sacrificing birds, although they believe in the need for scientific collection and participate in the process. “I think it’s hard on all of us,” said Ms. Soto, whose high, melodic voice gave her a certain bird-like aura. “But it’s really hard for me. It just stabs me right in the heart. During this expedition, Ms. Soto took on other tasks on the assembly line: cutting samples of pectoral muscle to drop them into liquid nitrogen, calling up the colors of beaks and feathers, carefully marking a leg.

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Newsrust - US Top News: In search of birds in an ancient "ocean of forest"
In search of birds in an ancient "ocean of forest"
Newsrust - US Top News
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