Long overdue Dead Bird Quiz

5 07 2016

Time has slipped by so fast for me recently. And while I was on vacation last week, I was thinking about how long it has been since I have posted to the SEANET Blog.  So, my first thought is that we are well overdue for another Dead Bird Quiz (DBQ).  So, here goes:

The first bird (Bird A) was found on May 10, 2016 on a Massachusetts beach.  Additional details are as follows:

Wing chord 45.0 mm
Tarsus 81.0 mm

WB_13a  5-10-16(2)

Bird A: found on Massachusetts beach in May 2016.

The second bird  (Bird B) was found on May 5, 2016 on a South Carolina beach.  Additional details are as follows:

Wind chord 43.0 mm
Culmen 55.0 mm
Tarsus 69.0 mm
Bird B: Found on a South Carolina Beach in May 2016

In memory of Edward Soldaat

2 05 2016

{Sarah Courchesne, guest blogging}

SEANET is very much a creature of the internet. In my time heading this project, I have corresponded via email and comment threads on the blog with people all over the country and the world, sometimes establishing regular and rewarding correspondence with them. The connection I made with Edward Soldaat was one of the best.


Edward at work

Edward was the founding force behind the seabird osteology site that I have referenced many a time on Dead Bird Quizzes. I can’t remember how we first came into contact–probably I wanted to use one of his excellent images–but after that, Edward became one of the most devoted and knowledgeable players of the DBQs, often offering corrections or clarifications when I’d gone astray.

Edward lived in the Netherlands, as does Wouter van Gestel, another ringer who plays the DBQ often. I always found it both surprising and fitting that some of SEANET’s most kindred spirits were thousands of miles across the Atlantic. But after all, our organization is seaward looking, oriented toward the ocean, and there, on the other side, was Edward, sharing our fascination with seabirds, joined in fellowship over their carcasses.

Wouter wrote to tell me of Edward’s death from metastatic melanoma a few weeks ago, and was kind enough to share with me a bit about the funeral services. Friends and colleagues shared stories of Edward, always angling to acquire skulls and bones from around the globe, or aggravating his mother when he was young, filling the kitchen and freezer with specimens in various stages of processing. He was always lamenting the fastidious and strict U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, evidently one of the world’s more uptight governing bodies as it pertains to shipping bird bits about. I was never able to get Edward any of the things he coveted, but he was ever good natured about it.

Wouter tells me that word came of Edward’s death via a black-bordered card with a bit of verse and an albatross on it. I never got to meet Edward, or even to speak with him, but he was a fellow traveler with the same oddball fixations and interests of all of us here at SEANET. Most people, it seems, try to avoid talking about death. “Well, that’s morbid,” we often hear when describing what we Seanetters do, as if it were a bad thing. Edward understood what the dead can teach us. Already, since his death, I’ve visited his site several times to look over the images or read his descriptions. It seems the right sort of memorial for him. Just like the notice that came of his death, his project was a constant reminder that every living thing inhabits a space hemmed in by black. The lock-winged albatross only has so long to sail, and if he were lucky, then maybe his skull ended up in Edward’s bone collection.

I will miss his voice, and I am grateful to have known him a little bit. I wish peace to all who knew him far better than I did.

What does hand soap and seabirds have in common?

31 03 2016

It is estimated that several million TONS of plastic makes it into our oceans each year. For me, what this means to the survival of marine birds and animals immediately comes to mind.  Our job, as seanetters, to comb our beaches looking for dead birds and to ponder why these birds may have died directly exposes us to the plight of ocean pollution.  The statistics are staggering:

  • Plastics are estimated to represent almost 80% of the total marine debris floating in the world’s oceans.
  • Every year, at least one million sea birds and 100,000 sharks, turtles, dolphins and whales die from eating plastic.
  • Fish in the middle depths of the northern pacific ocean are ingesting as much as 24,000 tons of plastic each year.
  • 267 species around the world are harmed by plastic. 86% of sea turtles, 44% of seabirds and 43% of ocean mammals ingest or become tangled in plastic.

However, one small U.S. soap company, method (Method Products), is trying to do their part and raise awareness :


dish + hand soap – OCEAN PLASTIC

As a small soap company, they know they can’t clean up the world’s oceans, but they are trying to raise awareness about the issue and use their business to demonstrate smart ways of using and reusing the plastics that are already on the planet. They think the best way to do that is by proving that solutions exist, even at a small scale.

Some of their hand soap bottles are made with a blend of recovered ocean plastic and post-consumer recycled plastic.

As seanetters, a dedicated lot, we are all doing our part in some small way too to collect information about the plight of seabirds and in doing so we too are trying to raise awareness about the health of our oceans.  My hat is off to all seanetters!










ocean plastic

DBQ Answers

22 03 2016

Well, the return of the DBQ was a simple affair with only two mystery birds. The same day of the DBQ, capteagleeyes replied Bird #1 (aka Bird A) is a Black-Legged Kittiwake and Bird #2 (aka Bird B) is a Red-Breasted Merganser.  A few days later, our very own SEANET Project Coordinator, Dr. Sarah Courchesne replied “I concur”.  Lets review some key characteristics of these mystery birds and see if we can confirm their species identification.

Bird A looks tern or gull-like in winter plumage. However, none of the terns have a squared off tail. Most terns have distinct forked tails or some degree of forking in their tails. Thus, this directs us to the gull family (Laridae). Relative to the pebbles on the beach, this gull appears to be a smaller gull (less than 17″ total length). Next, bill and leg color are good clues its identity.  The yellow bill points to Ring-Billed Gull, Common Black-Headed Gull (1st year, nonbreeding) or a Black-Legged Kittiwake. Bird A is lacking a black ring (Ring-Billed Gull) or a black tip (Common Black-Headed Gull) which leaves us with a Black-Legged Kittiwake.

Black-Legged Kittiwake (nonbreeding)


Bird B provides us wings, feet and a sternum.  I immediately look at the speculum (i.e. Secondaries) and the color of the webbed feet.  Only two species of bay and sea ducks have solid white in their secondaries and secondary coverts.  They are the female Red-Breasted Mergansers and the female Common Mergansers. The feet of the Common merganser are deep red in color. The male Red-Breasted Merganser has deep red feet as well while the female has lighter red feet. It appears to me the feet are a lighter red color in the picture. Therefore, we have enough clues without exploring the sternum that point to a female Red-Breasted Merganser.



Red-Breasted Merganser, Female


There  you have it. The evidence points to Bird A as a Black-Legged Kittiwake and Bird B as a female Red-Breasted Merganser, therefore, we can conclude the identification of the mystery birds are confirmed! Stay tuned for a future DBQ right here on the SEANET Blog.

DBQ is back!

10 03 2016

The Dead Bird Quiz (DBQ) is back by popular demand. This is my first DBQ post – a first of sorts?!. Just two birds, one from a northern beach and one from a southern beach. Something for everyone to test their bird identification skills. Let the quiz begin!



Bird A,  found by Caroline Itzler on a beach in January on Cape Cod.


Bird B, found by Wendy Stanton on her North Carolina beach last month.


SEANET “Southern-style”

24 02 2016

As the new, “official” SEANET blogger and a resident of the southeastern United States, I wanted to bring a story from the South to all Seanetters.   This is what I am calling SEANET “Southern-style”.  So, let’s get started. The mission of SEANET is to bring together interdisciplinary researchers and members of the public (i.e. citizen scientists) in a long-term collaborative effort along the eastern seaboard to help identify and mitigate threats to marine birds. A big part to realizing SEANET’s mission involves the support from members of the public (i.e. citizen scientists). To this end, the North Carolina national estuarine research reserve’s coastal training program hosted a workshop entitled “Recruiting Citizens to conduct Science & Monitoring” on February 3, 2016 in Beaufort, North Carolina.  The workshop objectives were to: learn about citizen science and monitoring projects occurring in coastal North Carolina;    discuss what makes a successful citizen science project; and discuss managing project volunteers.  At this workshop, I had the pleasure of presenting the SEANET program to the workshop participants and sharing the lessons we have learned the last few years expanding SEANET into the Southeastern Atlantic States.  In a nutshell, what we have learned is that through a series of SEANET workshops that we hosted in North and South Carolina resulted in a 5X increase in the number of SEANET routes being surveyed from 2012-2015 which helped us detect an atypical die-off event in razorbills and dovekies during this period that may have gone largely unnoticed if not for SEANET volunteers! However, by the end of this three year period the number of active SEANET routs had declined by ~40%.  In addition, we felt that because of general lack of frequent communication with the newly established SEANET volunteers during this time period it may have played a big role in the decline. Lastly, we concluded that volunteers (i.e. the use citizen scientists) is a relatively new practice that conservation organizations and natural resource agencies are utilizing to collect data on natural resources and there is still a lot more we need to learn to realize its full potential! But one thing is for sure, SEANET “Southern-style” is trying to do its part to help SEANET meet its mission. And it goes without saying; a big thank you goes out to Seanetters everywhere! Go SEANET volunteers!

A Workshop: Recruiting Citizens to Conduct Science & Monitoring

(featuring SEANET!)

February 3, 2016

Beaufort, North Carolina


The workshop presentations, discussion notes and citizen science resources from the workshop can be found here: http://www.nccoastaltraining.net/web/ctp/past-workshops.


The SEANET Blog lives on!

10 02 2016

Hello my name is John Stanton. I am a migratory bird biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a longtime supporter and contributor to SEANET!

I have decided to take over the SEANET Blog to continue to communicate the good work of Seanetters; to continue the Dead Bird Quizzes that have developed a strong following, and to promote SEANET.  Sarah Courchesne, SEANET’s original SEANET Blogger has set the bar high, but I will strive to rise to the challenge!john

Feel free to contact me at john_stanton@fws.gov and together we will make the SEANET Blog the best it can be!