Reluctant Birds

One of my favourite things about teaching field courses in tropical biology the way we do them at FPI is the sheer variety of activities one partakes in any given day. Just one morning can begin with mist-netting birds, and go on to practicing bird identification, collection of behavioral data from passing primate troupes, finally ending with insect identification. (Somewhere in there, we squeeze in hurried breakfasts too).

On our mornings of mist-netting, we begin just as it turns light, setting up the mist-nets close to camp. The birds that fly in (not more than 2-7 each morning) are carefully extricated by students under instructor supervision, and important anatomical features examined before they are released. Even at a site with 567 bird species (and counting!), with a high level of avian research going on, many of the birds are not first-timers to the nets – but I still don’t believe that explains their subsequent behaviour.

In the video below, you’ll see that more likely than not, birds don’t take flight right away. Instead, they stay unhindered in our hands and have to be encouraged to take off. These precious moments bring a sort of peace to the morning, allowing human and bird to coexist in harmony, before they are parted.

Soon, the moment ends and we scribble down notes, collate images, take down the nets, and get to work on adding to our sightings lists for the biodiversity surveys we conduct. But nothing can beat the wonder in the eyes of someone who has a hummingbird nestled in their palm, reluctant to leave…


Here are the birds in the video, in order of appearance:

Rufous breasted hermit

Roufous Breasted Hermit

White-chinned Sapphire


Wedge-billed Woodcreeper

Wedge-billed woodcreeper with Eloisia Seligson, July 2015, Los Amigos
Wedge-billed woodcreeper with Eloisia Seligson, July 2015, Los Amigos

Guest appearances in the video by:

Tori Westhead

Krista Banda

Chalina Seligson (just one paw)

Ayla Judson’s Go-Pro

Mini Watsa + iPhone

Unknown paw

Gideon Erkenswick.