Guidelines to the use of wild birds in research ~ English, 3rd Edition (2010)

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The 2010 edition (released in February 2010) was re-formatted and updated in August 2010. Please substitute the August 2010 update if you downloaded the full document or any individual chapters, as page numbers have changed and several paragraphs of new text have been added. See Release Notes for details.

New content added February 2018: Summary of literature on the use of small unmanned aircraft

Chapter index

Cover page
Author information
Copyright notice
About the Ornithological Council
Suggested citation
Table of contents

Context: the study of wild birds
History of Guidelines to the Use of Wild Birds in Research
Our approach
Practical limitations and general guidance for application
Regulatory agencies and other organizations
United States
Private organizations
International organizations
The oversight of research involving animals: legal basis and implementation
United States
Are birds covered?
Are field studies covered?
Application of the Animal Welfare Act outside the United States
Overview of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee system
Standards of review for field studies: a note for ornithologists
Standards of review for field studies: a note for institutional Animal Care and
Use Committees
Population-level impacts
Additional considerations
The importance of publishing methods papers

Ch2-Impacts of Investigator Presence
Preliminary studies to assess impacts
Impacts associated with investigator presence
Nest visits
Aircraft overflights
Approach and nearness to sensitive areas
Suggestions for field researchers

Ch3-Capture and Marking
General Considerations
Capture methods
Mist nets
Cannon and rocket nets
Funnel traps
Trapping at nest sites
Capture myopathy
General considerations
Metal bands
Colored leg bands
Dyes and ultraviolet markers
Neck collars
Nasal disks and saddles
Patagial (wing) markers and leg tags
Radio/satellite transmitters

Significant new literature (published after Feb 2010):

Spotswood, E. N., K. R. Goodman, J. Carlisle, R. L. Cormier, D. L. Humple, J. Rousseau, S. L. Guers, and G. G. Barton. 2012. How safe is mist netting? evaluating the risk of injury and mortality to birds. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 3:29-38. DOI: 10.1111/j.2041-210X.2011.00123.x Available online (open access) here

Trefry, S. A., A. W. Diamond, and L. K. Jesson. 2013. Winger marker woes: a case study and meta-analysis of the impacts of wing and patagial tags. Journal of Ornithology 154:1-11. Full text available here (you will need to register for or if you are already registered, you will need to sign in).

Summary: Though wing tags as a visible field marker have been used on frigatebirds for over 40 years, we observed that wing-tagged nests seemed to be faring worse than control nests at our study site in the Lesser Antilles. We designed a study to investigate the cause(s), as other treatments were also being applied simultaneously. Not only did we find that wing tags were negatively affecting nest success, but a subsequent meta-analysis demonstrated that wing markers have detrimental effects on other species of birds, in terms of survival or productivity measures.

Regulatory guidelines
Considerations for all types of transportation
Food and water
Timing and duration
Specific modes of transportation
Air transport
Ground transport
Health and safety during and after transport
Stress and physiological considerations

Ch5-Captive Management
Regulatory requirements and oversight
Quarantine of animals
Prevention and control of animal disease
First aid
Separation by species
Daily care
Caging and housing
Enrichment for birds in captivity
General maintenance
Special considerations for aquatic birds
Identification and records
Disposition of birds after experiments
Variations on standard procedure
Zoonoses and other risks to humans

Ch6-Minor Manipulative Procedures
Wild birds studied in captivity
Collection of blood samples
Impacts of collection on survival and behavior
Choice of methods
Stopping bleeding
Blood samples
Repeated sampling
Alternate means to obtain blood of material for genetic studies, stable isotope
analysis, and contaminants
Collection of other tissues
Collection of food samples
Neck ligatures on nestlings
Fecal analysis and pellet analysis
Stomach and crop flush
Force Feeding
Cloacal lavage
Injections and insertion of implants
Determination of egg viability
Playback of recorded vocalization and the use of decoys
Artificial eggs
Experimental manipulation of plumage

Significant new literature (published after Feb 2010):

Redmond, L. J. and M. T. Murphy. 2011. Multistate mark-recapture analysis reveals no effect of blood sampling on survival and recapture of Eastern Kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus). 2011. Auk 128:514-521

Lattin, C. R., J. M. Reed, D. W. DesRochers, and L. M. Romero. 2011. Elevated corticosterone in feathers correlates with corticosterone-induced decreased feather quality: a validation study. Journal of Avian Biology 42:247-252. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-048X.2010.05310.x (PDF, courtesy of the authors)

Ch7-Major Manipulative Procedures
Intended fate of subject
General consideration
Aseptic technique
Physical restraint
Pain management
Access to controlled substances
General anesthesia
Drug combinations
Local anesthesia
Incision closure and treatment
Specific field surgeries
Implantation of transmitters

Ch8-Scientific Collecting
Purpose of scientific collecting
Impact of populations
Humane methods

To save a bird carcass for science

Suggested citation

Fair, J., E. Paul, and J. Jones, Eds. 2010. Guidelines to the Use of Wild Birds in Research. Washington, D.C.: Ornithological Council

With the publication of the 2010 revision of Guidelines to the Use of Wild Birds in Research, the print version is discontinued. We encourage you to cite the internet version by including the URL and the date accessed, including the given date of any updates.

Questions and comments

We welcome your comments. Suggestions for substantive changes will be reviewed by a committee and if accepted, will be incorporated into the Guidelines. Questions are welcome, but we can not guarantee that someone will be available to reply. Send comments to:

© 1997, 1999, 2010 by The Ornithological Council