Lookout for A-State students working on bluebird project

A-State Bluebird project

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A reminder to look out for people on the side of the road.

Students of Arkansas State University's Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences are working on a bluebird research project to study the effects of global warming on the birds.

Some of the nest boxes the students access are located on roads with no shoulder, leaving them exposed to possible close calls with passing vehicles.

"I try to get off as far as I can but I drive a Civic and it doesn't handle low ground, steep terrain very well," said Sara Harrod, an A-State student in the research program. "In some places I cannot pull off as far as I'd like to. For anyone else, if they are concerned about it, all I can say is try to be patient with us. I try to be as quick as I can with the boxes and not stay on the road too long."

The bluebird project was started here in Jonesboro, in 2003, by Dr. Tom Risch and Dr. Archie Ryan.

Harrod has been working with Dr. Virginie Rolland, who took over the project in 2011, to monitor the nest boxes.

Harrod said there are about 150 nest boxes in the Jonesboro area and they check them every morning, monitoring whether or not a predator reached the nest, who is nesting in the box, what stage of nesting they are in, how many eggs they're laying and the number of eggs hatched.

Harrod said there have been quite a few instances this year of predators like snakes, rabbits, and raccoons entering a nest box.

Adult birds tracked in the research project have color bands and a metal band equipped with a serial number from the U.S. Geological Survey.

"If we catch that bird again, we can read the serial number, we can tell potentially where that bird hatched at, where they were nesting and who their partners were," Harrod said. "The color bands allow us to use binoculars to sight them from a distance."

The bluebird project is a collaborative effort with other organizations monitoring nest boxes in Oklahoma, North Carolina and Virginia.

"At the end of the study what I'll do is analyze that data, see if there are any major differences in survival among the bluebirds, how successful their nests are and if there's any correlation between those differences and climate change across the region," Herrod said. "What we're predicting with climate change is the Eastern states are going to get more precipitation and the Western is going to get drier. It's hard to say exactly how that will affect the birds but we are expecting to see some differences across that range."

Herrod is also working to start a collaboration with Jonesboro schools to begin a conservation project.

If you're an educator interested in starting a collaboration with Herrod, she can be contacted at 210-833-7065.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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