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Join us this summer!

Photo by Eileen Capson

Our summer banding dates are scheduled and we would love to have you join us!

To visit our Boise River site this summer, sign up on Eventbrite today by clicking here. This free event is fun for the whole family!

And don’t forget to check out our hummingbird banding in Idaho City! Registration is required and space is limited so be sure to reserve your spot ASAP. This is an unforgettable experience for young and old.

Poached Curlew on the Snake River Birds of Prey NCA

Story originally published June 7, 2018

Curlew Crew members Stephanie and Joni were out near the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area checking nests and found that one of the nests we had been monitoring had failed. After continuing their survey around the area of the nest, they discovered that the mother curlew had been freshly shot. Based on the bullet holes, they found that she had been shot straight through her wing and into her body. This means that she was poached while doing nothing but sitting perched on the ground.

A poached Long-billed Curlew on the Snake River NCA. Photo by Stephanie Coates

Unlike some curlews, who seem to be shot while aggressively defending their nests, this female was simply shot because she was there.

Illegal shooting is a pressing local issue

We often think of poaching as an issue far away, in exotic locations like Africa. But poaching is alive and well in our own back yard. Please help us spread the Idaho Bird Conservation Partnership message that random shooting of protected species like this is illegal. Share this story with as many as possible. It could save the life of a curlew and its family.

What can you do?

Become a curlew ambassador! Wear your curlew t-shirt loud and proud, and tell others about these amazing birds. Get your shirt here:

 a blue t-shirt with a drawing of a long-billed curlew head

While we work with local agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Department of Fish and Game to improve enforcement of existing laws that protect curlews, we are also working on outreach to help prevent this from happening again. If you are interested in contributing to our outreach efforts, visit this link, and set the designation to “IBO Long-billed Curlew Satellite Tracking Project” Even $5 goes a long way toward helping us reach school children, hunters education classes, and adult public land users.

Learn more about our curlew project

Learn about our satellite tracked birds on our satellite tracking pagecurlew profiles page.

Get more updates on curlews on our Curlew Crew facebook page, IBO facebook page, and Instagram.

October 13th Community Planting Day

We will be planting 2,000 native plants on Saturday October 13th at Intermountain Bird Observatory’s Boise River Research Station in partnership with College of Western Idaho, Golden Eagle Audubon, the Native Plant Network, and Idaho Fish and Game, with support from BLM and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The goal is to improve habitat for pollinators and birds at this important wildlife area.

If you can join us please fill out this google form

It has important information about the event, and will also get you signed up to receive update emails if anything changes as the date approaches.

We’ll need a lot of volunteers to really make this event a success, and we hope we can count on you! Kids and families are welcome.

Be sure to invite your friends to this fun fall event. This would be a great project for any students who need community service hours!

Questions? Contact

Upcoming Fall Activities

Fall migration is upon us and that means lots of upcoming events at IBO! Our Lucky Peak and Boise River stations will be running this fall until Mid to Late October!

For information about visiting us at our Banding Stations, check out our Banding Dates page here.

We have a number of special events scheduled in October. Be sure to check out:

To see all our upcoming events, visit our Eventbrite page:

two hands holding two birds with wings spread open to view the feathers. There is a mix of contrasting brown and black feathers on each wing

A Black-headed Grosbeak and Western Tanager at the Lucky Peak field station

2018 Curlew Naming Contest

We’re excited to share that we are ready to host a naming contest for our newly-transmittered curlews this year! One of our goals in naming these birds is to help raise awareness for curlews in key areas and with important partners. This year, we’ve invited a number of schools and organizations to participate in the contest.

a person holding a long-billed curlew with a grassy field and snow capped mountains in the background

Male Naming Contest:

Read the list of proposed male curlew names below, and learn a little bit about why each group chose that particular name. Then head over to our Curlew Crew Facebook page to place your vote:

  • Kevin: This name was chosen by Middleton Middle School because “known as a Saint in Dublin, Ireland, Kevin is gentle and handsome. Can be mean when needed, to protect their nest. Kevin can also be kind to others when not under attack.”
  • Jupiter: This name was chosen by Middleton Middle School because Jupiter was the king of the Roman Gods. Romans saw Jupiter as equivalent to the Greek God Zeus. In Latin Jupiter means “father”.
  • E.O. : This name was chosen by Idaho Bureau of Land Management staff, because E.O. Wilson is a famous biologist and naturalist who raises awareness for threatened species.
  • Ace: This name was chosen by Idaho Bureau of Land Management staff, “in honor of the ACEC’s special status species in Idaho”
  • Ghili: This name was chosen by Idaho Bureau of Land Management staff, because Ghili suits provide hunters with great camouflage skills, just like curlews have!
  • Apollo: This name was chosen by Middleton Middle School because Apollo was the Greek and Roman God of Sunlight.
  • Skip: This name was chosen by Idaho Bureau of Land Management staff, because a skip is the captain of a curling team (get it? curling?)

Female naming contest results are in!

First Place:

Hope–This name was chosen by Adams Elementary because their students hope for successful curlew nests, healthy chicks, and safe migration for our satellite tracked birds

Second Place:

Nova–This name was chosen by Middleton Middle School because Nova means ‘new bright star’

Third Place:

Liberty–This name was chosen by Liberty Elementary School, because Liberty means freedom


  • Pippi Longstocking:  This name was chosen by Village Charter school, because curlews are a shorebird with very long legs
  • Rachel Carson: This name was chosen by Idaho Bureau of Land Management staff, because Rachel Carson was a renowned author and biologist who raised awareness for many pressing conservation issues
  • Button: This name was chosen by Idaho Bureau of Land Management staff because the button is the center of players’ focus and effort in the sport of curling (hah! get it?).
  • Dora: This name was chosen by Middleton Middle School because Dora means “gift” in Greek, and because the TV character Dora is an explorer who is very good at problem solving. She is independent and loyal.

Little things can accomplish a lot

This tiny fledgling Calliope Hummingbird doesn’t let his size hold him back. Weighing as much as a dime and only a few months old, this little guy will soon be winging his way thousands of miles south…all the way to Mexico!

Little things can accomplish a lot! That’s the same philosophy we’re taking with our upcoming projects this year. Whether that’s a school field trip to meet the scientists at one of our banding stations, a Curlews in the Classroom activity, or a summer visit to our Hummingbird banding project, we need your help.

We know many of you love and support the work we do at the Intermountain Bird Observatory. That is why we have made it easy for you to become a sustaining supporter. It costs us about $5 per student to bring our outreach programming to a class. If just two of you make a gift of $10/month, we can bring 48 new students on board this year.

Become a sustaining supporter today by making a gift at

Ecuador 2018 – the Andes to Amazonia

By IBO Research Director Jay Carlisle (All photos by trip participants!)

How do you pick a favorite bird or even a “top ten” list when you’ve just seen over 450 bird species in 10.5 days of birding in one of the most diverse regions of the world?  That’s the “first world problem” facing me as I attempt to distill an action-packed trip to Ecuador that 12 of us just completed.

I’ve long known of Ecuador’s fame as a birding destination – a relatively small South American country that includes a wide variety of habitats from Pacific & Amazonian lowlands to over 6,000 meters altitude in the Andes – plus relatively easy access to most habitats.  It just took me a long time to finally get there & I’m still amazed at the diversity we just observed!

Mid-elevation forest near Guango Lodge. Photo by Sharon Barnes

A great itinerary plus great local guides are key elements of a successful trip and we had both.  I worked with my friend Alvaro (Alvaro’s Adventures) and BirdEcuador to develop an itinerary that included a day atop the Andes, 5 days at mid to high elevations on the eastern slope, and 3 full days in the lowlands along the Napo River – tributary to the Amazon.  Then, once we saw the late flight times into Quito, our group decided to arrive a day early and add some time birding at the Yanacocha reserve west of Quito.  This gave us a taste of “west slope” birds in addition to our “east slope” focus.

Marcelo Quipo was our local guide from Quito to Coca (5.5 days) and I was supremely impressed with his knowledge and, especially, his auditory ID skills.  There are LOTS of similar-sounding tanager call notes and antbird songs and he knew ALL of them, and 99% of the time his reply to my “what’s that calling?” was instant and correct.

Our BirdEcuador Guide, Marcelo. Photo by Sheri Robison

Reserva Yanacocha

eBird Checklist – S43050157
Accounting for a late start & cross-city traffic, we only had a few hours at this great spot but it was more than enough to blow our minds!  Sword-billed Hummingbird 10 feet away – enough said, right?  But there was more – a variety of hummingbirds, including pufflegs and the spectacular Shining Sunbeam, were constant at the feeders. A walk along the mountainside trail brought our first Mountain-tanagers of the trip and a very cooperative Rainbow-bearded Thornbill.

Sword-billed Hummingbird. Photo by Pat Weber

Sapphire-vented Puffleg. Photo by Sharon Barnes

Shining Sunbeam

Reserva Ecológica Cayambe-Coca

eBird Checklist – S43076665
Another site we didn’t devote a lot of time to, making a number of stops on a ¾ day trip between Quito and Guango, but we had A LOT of great sightings of high Andean species including a foraging Spectacled Bear (!!), Andean Condor, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, and White-chinned Thistletail.

Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. Photo by Sharon Barnes

Spectacled Bear and Andean Condor Habitat! Photo by Sharon Barnes

Spectacled Bear!

Guango Lodge

eBird Checklist – S43101647
We spent two nights at this neat spot in cloud forest near the Papallacta River.  In addition to spending hours at the very productive hummingbird feeders (Sword-bill again plus coronets, sunangels, woodstars, and the elegant Long-tailed Sylph–eBird Checklist – S43079345), we spent time hiking several trails in search of local specialties and mixed flocks.

Sword-billed Hummingbird, Illustration by Keith Barnes

We struck out on Mountain-toucans but saw loads of other species, highlighted by Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, and four species of Bush-tyrants!  On an afternoon trip upslope to a different portion of Cayambe-Coca (above the Papallacta thermal pools), we also had our first taste of the skulky Antpittas (Tawny isn’t too hard to see on the paramo), including a very “branchy” look at a Rufous and a quick glimpse of a Crescent-faced for a few of us.

Birding in Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, “White-winged” Black Phoebe, and Torrent Tyrannulet habitat! Photo by Sharon Barnes

Torrent Tyrannulets really live up to their name

It takes hard work and cooperation to get to see Antpittas skulking deep in the forest understory. Photo by Heidi Ware

Guango to San Isidro

We spent almost all day in transit making a number of stops as we dropped in elevation a bit down the eastern slope in the Baeza region.  Among many highlights was a lunchtime stop at a relatively new hummingbird feeder set-up (at an under construction new lodge & trails site) near Arreyan where we got our fill of Booted Rackettails, White-tailed Hillstars, Bronzy Incas, and more.  (eBird Checklist – S43131531) After lunch we had great views of numerous tanagers including the spectacular Flame-faced and Golden Tanagers.  Then we visited an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek in light drizzle and were glad they were still active!

Flame-faced Tanager

A male Booted Rackettail

Cabañas San Isidro

We arrived in time for a few pre-sunset views of birds like Sickle-winged Guan.  Then a short walk after dinner led us to a pair of the mystery “San Isidro” Owl (appears to be between Black-&-White and Black-banded Owls), with one calling and the other perched over the road.  We had two full days in this area – one on the grounds of the lodge and nearby roads (55 species morning checklist – S43163771!) and the other making stops on Loreto Road to get to some different elevations (eBird Checklist – S43192024).  Our good fortune continued as we enjoyed another 3 antpitta species (!!; White-bellied eating worms then Chestnut-crowned and Slate-crowned along the nearby road) as well as a huge variety of other species, including a distant but exciting Black-billed Mountain-toucan and our only Cerulean Warblers of the trip.

The famous San Isidro Owl. This may in fact be an un-documented endemic species! Photo by Keith Barnes

White-bellied Antpitta! Photo by Sharon Barnes

Our group wasn’t afraid to go out on a limb to get a lifer! The Mountain-Toucan was worth the climb. Photo by Pat Weber

San Isidro to Coca

On our long drive to the lowlands for the last destination of our trip, we made 2 stops as we descended.  First, we made a return visit to Cascada Hollin where our driver, Roger, had seen a Wire-crested Thorntail the day before while our group was down the trail and we’d waited out a pretty serious downpour to no avail (eBird Checklist – S43191533).  Fortunately, on our 2nd try, a male appeared and fed for a few minutes at very close range!

The fast-moving Wire-crested Thorntail didn’t want to stop for his portrait

Then we stopped along the carretero viejo at an eBird hotspot called “Vía Papanku (Papango Road)” for a couple hours of lower foothills birding. Here we got into our first real dose of the antbirds, including the snazzy Ornate Antwren, as well as a mixed flock that mostly eluded us/went by too fast!  We also found our only Pearl Kite of the trip along the main highway right in Coca.

Coca to Sacha Lodge

Once we arrived at Coca, Roger and Marcelo left us with the Sacha Lodge staff. Our two lead guides were the very experienced Oscar and Wilmer (nicknamed “Shanshu”): a young up-and-comer with lots of knowledge and enthusiasm.  We then boarded a motorized canoe for a 2-hour trip down the Napo River … fortunately, Oscar and the boat pilot slowed or even backtracked a few times so we could enjoy birds like Swallow-winged Puffbirds, White-banded Swallows, and Orange-backed Troupial.  After landing, we enjoyed Black-fronted Nunbirds at the dock. We added more species our way along a trail, then took a smaller canoe to the lodge.

Canoeing through the blackwater lead us to a variety of new species. Photo by Sheri Robison

Shanshu took our admiration of his boating skills in stride ;) Photo by Robin Garwood

Sacha Lodge and the Napo River

We enjoyed 4 nights and 3 full days in the lowlands. This included 2 spectacular mornings atop canopy towers (check out our checklists from the Canopy Walk and Kapok Tower), a day exploring habitats downriver, and some forest trails. Plus some time on the restaurant deck at the edge of a blackwater lake (Giant Otter, Hoatzin, and more).

Hoatzins were a common sight at Sacha Lodge. Photo by Keith Barnes

Probably too many highlights to name but Crested Owl, Paradise Tanager, White-browed Purpletuft, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Yellow-browed Tody-flycatcher, Plum-throated and Spangled Contingas, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Chestnut-belted Gnateater, and Black-spotted Bare-eye are among the fancier birds we saw.

Our canopy tower visits produced overwhelmingly biodiverse bird checklists! Photo by Sharon Barnes

The obliging pair of Crested Owls

The Kapok Tree tower was not for the feint of heart!

A pair of Yellow-browed Tody Flycatchers held a nesting territory in the top of the Kapok Tree

A Common Potoo watched the crowds calmly from her nest near a bustling boat launch area

Back to Quito

On our last day we hoofed it upriver to Coca and took a short flight back to Quito.  We even had time for an impromptu mid-afternoon visit to the Puembo Birding Garden where we added new species such as Western Emerald, Scrub Tanager, and Golden Grosbeak (eBird Checklist – S43385132).

A hungry Scrub Tanager at Puembo Birding Garden. Photo by Ann Truesdale

Wow.  So we birded on part or all of 11 days in Ecuador and we recorded over 450 bird species! Plus some other very cool animals like Spectacled Bear, Giant Otter, Anaconda, and a courting pair of Yellow-footed Ground Turtles (well, at least he was in the mood ☺ ).

Giant Otter at Sacha Lodge. Photo by Sheri Robison

Yellow-footed Ground Turtle. Photo by Pat Weber

Thus, the most diverse birding trip I’ve ever been on – and the best I’ve ever done for hummingbirds (42 species!), tanagers (41), and Antpittas (6).  Crazy good – and now I want to return to explore other mega-diverse regions of Ecuador such as the northwest and the far south …

I’m a big fan of asking for favorites (i.e., “best bird of the day?”) so, in spite of the difficulty of choosing, here goes my top 10 birds for the trip:

  1. Sword-billed Hummingbird
  2. Crested Owl
  3. Wire-crested Thorntail
  4. White-bellied Antpitta
  5. Booted Rackettail
  6. Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager
  7. Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe
  8. Crescent-faced Antpitta
  9. Rusty-belted Tapaculo
  10. Point-tailed Palmcreeper

Honorable mention goes to Spectacled Bear (definitely one of the top 10 animals of the trip!), Black-spotted Bare-eye, and Paradise Tanager.

The biodiversity on this trip didn’t just include vertebrates either! Our group of adventurers also enjoyed tons of plants and arthropods along the way:

Photo by Sheri Robison

Orchid from San Isidro. Photo by Ann Truesdale

Night walks revealed some of the forest’s more secretive biodiversity. Photo by Robin Garwood

Coleoptera make up 25% of all known animal life-forms! There was no shortage of beetle diversity on this trip. Photo by Keith Barnes

A group of butterfly admirers stops for a break in between mixed flocks. Photo by Sheri Robison

Photo by Sharon Barnes

The mesmerizing patterns of Paramo cushion plants. Photo by Ann Truesdale

This gorgeous moth was larger than a credit card! Photo by Sharon Barnes

Photo by Sheri Robison

Millipedes abounded in many habitats on the trip. Photo by Sharon Barnes

Yellow Warblers Love the Boise River: A High School Student Investigates

For the past few months, Sage International School senior, Zoe Daly has been working on a project using Yellow Warbler data from the Intermountain Bird Observatory’s Boise River Research Station.

A Yellow Warbler is weighed at our Boise River Site, just before being released. Photo by Tom Carroll

A Yellow Warbler is weighed at our Boise River Site, just before being released. Photo by Tom Carroll

In the Fall of 2017 IBO ran nets daily during fall migration for the first time ever! This gave us an excellent, fine-scale picture of migration at the river station. We were also able to complete a full MAPS breeding season banding protocol this summer, sampling songbirds at the site once every 10 days. Simultaneously, we collected the same data at our long-standing Lucky Peak station.

This gave us the ability to compare between our Boise River and Lucky Peak stations like never before.

When we first started banding at the Boise River site, we knew that it was special for Yellow Warblers (we once caught more than 200 of them in a single day!) but we had never looked at the hard data or quantified exactly what was going on. So, when Zoe came along and told us she loved looking at data and graphs, we knew exactly what she should do.

The Cottonwood overstory and thick willow, currant, and rose shrub layer at our Boise River Site is ideal habitat for Yellow Warblers.

The cottonwood overstory and thick willow, currant, and rose shrub layer at our Boise River Site is ideal habitat for Yellow Warblers. Photo by Tom Carroll

Zoe took our banding data from Lucky Peak and the Boise River and compared Yellow Warblers at both sites. In particular, she looked at the fat levels of Yellow Warblers.

She found that Yellow Warblers were significantly fatter at our Boise River Station than at Lucky Peak.

This means that the habitat at the Boise River provides food that Yellow Warblers need during migration and stopover. They are able to spend time at the site, eat, and “fuel up” with fat for the next leg of their migration journey.

Zoe also found that Yellow Warblers at Lucky Peak tend to leave the area soon after their young fledge…they don’t stay at the site during late summer when migrants begin fattening up. Instead, they seem to travel to the river to finish molting and fattening up for migration.

This goes to show that the riparian habitat at the Boise River is a key resource for neotropical migrants like Yellow Warblers.

Congratulations to Zoe for completing this poster and finding such interesting results! Thanks also to Guy Falconer of Sage International School who connected Zoe with IBO to begin this internship.

Check out Zoe’s full poster to learn more:Poster showing graphs of Yellow Warbler fat levels. Yellow Warblers were fatter at the Boise River than at Lucky Peak

(full size poster PDF available here)

Project WAfLS commences!

Project WAfLS 2018 has begun! Find out how you can become a citizen scientist and help us learn more about Short-eared Owls. This year we’re accepting volunteers in UT, ID, MT, CA, WY, NV, WA and OR!

Visit the official website for more information:

Short-eared Owl on a fencepost

Short-eared Owl by Becky Lyle

How can YOU make a significant impact towards conservation?

We want to express our heartfelt thanks for all the donations and support we’ve received to date. Thank YOU for your continued generosity!

With the end of the year fast approaching, IBO needs your help to support some of our most iconic projects.  Don’t forget to make your gift prior to Dec. 31 to receive tax benefits.  Your gift to the Intermountain Bird Observatory may also qualify for an additional education tax credit in Idaho.

While research grant budgets continue to expand each year, securing support for our annual fall migration project at Lucky Peak continues to be a challenge.  A little known fact is that the fall project has been almost entirely supported by individual private donations for the past several years now. We need your help to make sure this project will continue!

Other major IBO projects also need support:

Boise River site

Song Sparrow--Photo by Bryce Robinson

In 2017 we had enough donations saved up to run a fall banding project, reaching over 600 Treasure Valley Students. But, we don’t have enough funding to repeat this project in fall 2018. Plans to build an education program endowment would ensure that our education and outreach efforts at the Boise River site and at Lucky Peak would continue indefinitely.

Hummingbird banding

Photo by Liz Urban

Another favorite: hummingbird banding at our Idaho City location, is also sorely underfunded.  This favorite activity among IBO supporters hosts hundreds of people each year to observe and participate in this most special of opportunities.

Gorongosa National Park

Photo by John KellyOur efforts in Mozambique at Gorongosa National Park would greatly benefit from your generosity-please assist us in tracking endangered vultures or supporting Mozambican interns.

And don’t forget that we always appreciate your in-kind donations of much needed items for our various field projects such as 4×4 vehicles in good working condition, ORV’s such as 4-wheelers, camping equipment for trainees, wall tents and accessories, and optics such as binoculars, spotting scopes, and tripods.  Our Mozambican Trainees, not used to chilly fall conditions in the temperate zone, would really appreciate your lightly used winter clothing!

There are two easy ways to support the Intermountain Bird Observatory:

Donate Online

Or, you can mail a check payable to:

Intermountain Bird Observatory c/o BSU Foundation, Inc.
1173 W University Drive
Boise, ID 83706

Please specify if you wish for your donation to go towards a specific project, e.g., Hummingbirds, Lucky Peak, Long-billed Curlews, otherwise it will go into the general IBO account.

For additional questions on supporting IBO, please contact Jim Ogle at 208-426-3230 or

A Gift in Your Will or Living Trust – the Easiest Way to Make an Impact

Interested in helping the Intermountain Bird Observatory contribute to conservation efforts that directly impact human lives? A simple and versatile way to ensure that we are able to conduct our research focusing on migratory birds, education, discovery of the natural world, and community engagement is with a gift in your will or living trust.

By including a bequest to the Boise State University Foundation, specifically for the IBO, you are ensuring that we can continue our work for years to come. As little as one sentence in your will or living trust is all that is needed to complete your gift.  If you’d like to learn more, please contact our Executive Director of Gift Planning, Jennifer Neil at

 Happy Holidays!!