About the Lund Blackbird Project
Should I stay or should I go? Immune function as a driver of partial migration
Blackbirds are partial migrants – meaning that some individuals will migrate during winter, whilst others will remain resident all year round. Our project aims to find out what drives these decisions. In particular, we are looking at whether the immune system of each bird plays a role.
Each summer our team catches, marks and collects biometric data from multiple blackbirds in Lund. This involves setting up mist nets (made from a fine mesh) that are specifically designed to safely catch birds in flight. Birds are then marked with a unique combination of colour rings and a small blood sample is taken. We also record a couple of other measurements, such as weight and wing length. The whole process is carried out at the capture site and takes just a few minutes, after which the birds are released.
Some of our birds have also been fitted with a radio-transmitter that can be detected by our remote receivers. These tags are hard to see, but look like a ‘bump’ on the birds back and have a thin antenna, longer than the birds tail. The radio tags can tell us whether the bird is in Lund, but not their exact location… Therefore, we rely solely on re-sightings to know exactly where are birds are and what they are up to. This is where we need your help! Sightings of any of our birds in peoples gardens or public spaces will be extremely useful to build a picture of their movements at a local scale and to confirm their migratory status.
Using the data collected, we hope to find out how many of our birds in Lund migrate and why. These data may also provide a unique insight into how urban birds behave and valuable information regarding blackbird physiology and health. Any reports provided by you will significantly contribute to this project and our scientific understanding of this species.
Our team is based in the Biology department at Lund University. If you see anyone putting up nets, holding a bird or walking around Lund with a large antenna, good chances are it will be one of us!
We are always on the lookout for more team members to help with the fieldwork season. If you are looking for fieldwork experience and/or have an interest in ornithology – please get in touch using the contact us page!
Colour-ringed bird with radio tag.
A birds-eye view, just before the net.
Arne is the project lead and began collecting data for the Lund Blackbird Project in 2019. Arne started his research career studying skylark ecophysiology (PhD, University of Groningen). For the past 6 years, Arne has been working at Lund University, where he has built a programme of research to investigate the link between animal physiology and ecology – particularly the interaction between the immune system and migration.
Rosie is a post-doc working on the Lund Blackbird Project. She moved from the UK where she studied the effects of pesticides on farmland birds (PhD, University of York). Prior to this Rosie worked in a number of research-related roles. As part of the Lund Blackbird Project, Rosie hopes to examine the general health of our local blackbirds in conjunction with their immunity and migratory decisions.
Students & Interns
Each year a number of students and interns help out with the intensive fieldwork season and collect data for their own research projects.
Josefin Gunnarsson, a masterstudent in science 2020, is seen in the photo above.