University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

News Journal: Delaware, Brazil "veery" linked

Kitt Heckscher's "office" over these last few weeks has been behind a fallen tree, in the woods at White Clay Creek State Park. There, he and two graduate students, set up nets to catch veery birds -- creatures with an international connection to Delaware. All winter long, these birds live in the Brazilian rain forest. Each spring, they migrate northern Delaware and the dense wooded areas along White Clay Creek where they build nests, lay eggs and raise their young. Some travel even further.

"We can link a specific watershed in the Amazon to White Clay Creek State Park," said Heckscher, an associate professor of environmental sciences at Delaware State University.

If there is a habitat problem in Brazil, for instance, the result shows up in Delaware of the reverse, he said.

"What happens in Brazil, happens in Delaware," with these veery populations, he said.

Heckscher uses tiny geolocators to track these birds as they migrate south for the winter and then return to the state park year after year. The devices are about two inches long and as wide as a few strands of spaghetti stuck together. They strap on the bird like a tiny backpack, recording the daily hours of daylight. When Heckscher recovers a bird the following spring, he can download the data and pinpoint where the bird has been and when, exactly, it was there.