Visiting Saipan 2018

Follow Along on a Conservation Journey!

Hi everyone! My name is Jennifer, and I am the Senior Aviculturist in charge of the breeding center at the National Aviary. On Saturday, April 14, I traveled to the island of Saipan for two weeks to help translocate two different species of birds, the Rufous Fantail and the Golden White-eye. The Golden White-eye is an especially important species to me because I work with them every day in the National Aviary’s breeding center!  I am representing the National Aviary on this trip to the Northern Marianas Islands to participate in the Marianas Avifauna Conservation Project or “MAC” Project. The MAC Project is an international collaboration of participating Association of Zoos and Aquarium zoos and government organizations that focuses on conserving bird species on the Northern Mariana Islands, which are threatened by the invasive brown tree snake.

The MAC Project is one of several important conservation initiatives the National Aviary takes part in that help birds right here at home and in their home range. It’s another way we are saving birds and protecting their habitats. I am thrilled to be taking part in such an important endeavor, and very excited to share my adventure with you! Scroll down to catch up on all the updates from my conservation journey!


5/3/2018: Thank you for following along!

So my journey in Saipan has finally come to an end. During my time on island my amazing team was able to collect 51 golden white-eyes and 51 rufous fantails for translocation to the island of Alamagan where they will be safe from the threat of the brown tree snake. The birds were all determined to be in good health, and are currently being cared for by the closing team until they are translocated in a couple of days. I know the closing team will do an amazing job getting them to Alamagan! 

This trip was an extraordinary opportunity, and taught me what an impact a group of dedicated people can have on the environment. Almost all of the birds found on the Mariana Islands are not found anywhere else in the world, so it is imperative that their wild populations be maintained. Through translocations and captive breeding, the MAC project makes sure we are always working toward this goal. 

I am extremely thankful to have been a part of the MAC project team this year, and am so proud of what my team has accomplished. That is all from Saipan. Thank you for coming along on this adventure! 

4/30/2018: Rufous Fan-tail Update

Things in the field are going well! All of the mist nets are set up, the temporary home for the birds is up and running, and they are settling in well. So far, we are taking care of 46 Golden White-eyes and 11 Rufous Fan-tails. 

We are focusing now on the Rufous Fan-tails. They are a beautiful bird with a ton of personality. Their diet consists almost entirely of insects, so that means we have to be creative to provide them with their ideal food! Our group leaders have worked for years developing a method to collect flies in order to provide for the Rufous Fan-tails. 

The flies are collected in modified mesh buckets and then transferred to Petri dishes. We place a cone at the top of the bucket, so the flies don’t climb out the top and we are able to collect them in the Petri dish through a small hole in the bottom of the dish. Then, we can place it with the fan-tails. 

I found this to be an extremely creative and interesting process to watch, and it ensures the fan-tails have a constant food source!


4/26/2018: Locating Golden White-eyes and Rufous Fan-tails

Hello! I’m still hard at work in Saipan helping to translocate Golden White-eyes and Rufous Fan-tails! Wondering what happens after we locate a bird from one of these species? First, we have to assess the health of the bird in the field. The bird is triaged (given a preliminary exam) by members of our veterinary team, and then set up for transport back to a temporary home. 

When the bird arrives back at camp, we identify it by a number, and provide it with food and water before it is set up in a temporary transport box. These boxes help the birds to stay calm and comfortable while we move them back to the bird room. Through specialized tests, we consistently monitor the bird’s health and comfort!

Shortly after being set up in the field, the birds are moved to their temporary home in the bird holding room, which I will talk about soon. So stay tuned! 

4/23/2018: Mist Nets

Hello – it’s time for an update from Saipan! I’ve been hard at work and having a great time. The goal of the MAC project this year is to translocate 50 Golden White-eyes and 50 Rufous Fan-tails from the island of Saipan to the island of Alamagan, so they can live without the predation of the invasive brown tree snake. In order to accomplish this large undertaking, we first have to find and secure the birds. The question is… how do we do this? 

The answer is mist netting! This is a technique used by many researchers and ornithologists to catch target species of birds safely and effectively. Mist nets look like oversized volleyball net set up in bird habitats. We determined where the birds are likely to be flying back and forth, and constructed the nets in that area.


When a bird enters a mist net, it falls into a pocket. The team checks the mists nets every 15 minutes to release any birds we are not studying that might have found their way in. If a target species is found, they are examined and transported back to a temporary home, which I will fill you in on later!

Today we finished setting up the field station, and began looking for Golden White-eyes! I learned how to set up and break down a mist net, how to get birds out of the net, and how to determine where potential nets might be put up. I've only been here a couple of days, but I feel like I've learned an incredible amount already! 

Today we are out in the field again, but stay tuned. I will fill you in on our other operations soon! 


4/17/2018: Arriving in Saipan

After 42 hours of travel, I finally made it to Saipan! It took three planes and two days, but the journey was definitely worth it. One of the coolest things I did along the way was spend a night in Japan while waiting for my final flight to Saipan. I was able to take in a little bit of Japanese culture and add another country to my list of travels. Overall, the trip was rigorous, though it taught me how big this planet really is! 

When I arrived in Saipan, one of our group leaders immediately greeted me and I met most of the people I will be working with over the next two weeks. Everyone was welcoming and excited to have me on board. By the time I arrived, the work was done for the day, so I was able to see a little bit of the island and take in some of its culture. It is a vibrant place with a beautiful landscape!

Tomorrow we get started with the important work! Stay tuned for my next post to learn about our conservation efforts in Saipan.