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Bonter, D. N., T. M. Donovan, E. Brooks. 2008. What are we missing with ground-level mist nets? Using elevated nets at a migration stopover site. Journal of Field Ornithology 79:314-320.

Number of bird captures by mist net panel, with panel 1 being lowest to the ground and panel 8 being ~ 10 feet off ground.


Mist nets deployed in a standard ground-level fashion capture birds approximately 0.5–2.6 m above the ground. In habitats where the vegetation extends above this height, standard mist net deployment may inadequately sample the targeted avian community and age- and sex-classes within species. Such sampling biases may raise questions regarding studies based on data from mist-net captures. To determine if birds were equally likely to be captured by mist nets at different heights, we constructed a series of paired ground-level and elevated mist nets (hereafter "net rigs") at a research station in western New York State. Net rigs were operated during 14 migration seasons from 2000 to 2006 (spring and fall each year), and 19,735 birds of 118 species were captured. Capture rates were significantly higher in ground-level nets, but 12 species were only captured in elevated nets. Of 44 species with at least 50 captures, 25 species were more likely to be captured in the ground-level nets and two species in the elevated nets. For four of 18 species, more birds were captured in the elevated nets during fall migration than during spring migration. We conclude that standard ground-level net placement was more efficient in capturing birds in the secondary growth habitats that we sampled. However, ground-level nets may not adequately sample the entire targeted community or all age- or sex-classes within species.


Current Staff

Federal Staff: 2

Masters Students: 2

Phd Students: 4

Post Docs: 0

University Staff: 3

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 5

Scientific Publications: 24

Presentations: 35



September 2008


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Unit Authors

Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey
  2. University of Vermont
  3. Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department
  4. Wildlife Management Institute