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Searching for Bird Life in a Former ‘Ocean of Forest’

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Andrea Morales Rozo, who teaches biology on the Universidad de los Llanos in central Colombia, guided the workforce on the nets, from which she skillfully extricated birds unhurt. Ms. Morales Rozo has been learning the blackpoll warbler, a species that migrates between the Amazon and Canada; she was half of a group that not too long ago in contrast museum specimens and field-caught birds and discovered that the warbler’s northward vary had shifted by almost 400 miles in 45 years.

Dr. Cuervo, the expedition chief, supplied calm, fatherly assist to these on the processing desk. It’s not all the time apparent how finest to explain a chicken’s colours, for instance, and second opinions have been usually requested. Was a wing “verde café,” greenish brown? Or was it “verde olivazo,” olive inexperienced? Was a feminine chicken’s brood patch, the naked pores and skin that warms the eggs, nonetheless easy or changing into wrinkly?

MOR-001 struggled in Ms. Soto’s hand as she handed it to her colleague, Jessica Díaz, a area biologist employed for the expeditions. The chicken was photographed and logged. Ms. Díaz labored to extract a tiny quantity of blood from its jugular vein with a syringe, expressing the drops into a vial of alcohol. She then ready herself to euthanize it with speedy cardiac compression, utilizing fingers to use agency stress over the chicken’s coronary heart. With this system, small birds cross out inside seconds and die in about half a minute. Massive birds are anesthetized.

Ms. Díaz held MOR-001 beneath the desk in order to not have to look at; her colleagues did the identical every time their flip got here to sacrifice a chicken. “This is the not-fun part,” she mentioned, softly.

Just a few in the group, together with Ms. Soto, keep away from sacrificing birds, though they consider in the need of scientific gathering and take part in the method. “I think it’s hard on all of us,” mentioned Ms. Soto, whose excessive, mellifluous voice gave her a sure birdlike aura. “But it’s really hard on me. It just stabs me through the heart.” On this expedition, Ms. Soto assumed different jobs on the meeting line: chopping samples of pectoral muscle to drop into liquid nitrogen, calling out colours of beaks and feathers, gingerly tagging a leg.

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