Friday Feature: Bird Researcher, PhD Student Cody Cox

cody_toucanetCody Cox is a PhD student in Integrative Conservation and Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia who is conducting his research at UGA Costa Rica. Cody’s research focuses on ornithology and spatial approaches to wildlife conservation.

As part of his PhD research, Cody is examining how landscape structure, specifically the arrangement of forested and agricultural areas, affects the movement patterns of several bird species in the region around UGA Costa Rica’s campus. This kind of data is critical for developing effective conservation plans for these species.

We were able to join Cody as he took a group of students from the National Geographic Student Expedition program through part of his daily process from retrieving birds from the nets to data entry.

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Cody conducted his first season of field research in Costa Rica from May to August, 2015. His objective for this season was to capture individuals of two bird species, blue-diademed motmots and blue-throated toucanets, and track their movements.


To accomplish this, Cody, along with an incredible team of dedicated assistants, set out mist nets to capture birds at different sites in and around campus. They opened up the nets before dawn each day so as not to alert the birds to their presence and left the nets open until the mid-afternoon rains began. Since birds are often unable to see the fine mesh of the nets against the dense backdrop of vegetation, they fly into them and become ensnared.

Cody and his team then checked the nets hourly and carefully extracted all of the captured birds from the nets. They then identified the species, age, and sex of each bird and weighed and measured it. Non-target species were then released back into the wild. Additionally, Cody took small blood samples from the motmots and toucanets and attached colored bands around their legs in unique combinations to allow individual birds to be identified in the field. Then, Cody attached a small radio transmitter set to a unique frequency to each motmot and toucanet before releasing it back into the wild. Cody and his team then used radio receivers and antennas to track the birds’ movements through the landscape and recorded their locations with GPS units for future spatial analysis.

Over the course of the summer, Cody captured 195 birds representing 46 different species, including 17 motmots and 3 toucanets. This first field season laid an excellent foundation for his research, since he was able to develop effective trapping protocols for his target species and identify productive trapping sites, while collecting baseline movement data on these species.legbands

Cody would like to thank everyone at UGA Costa Rica who helped facilitate his research, particularly Jessica Murray and Greg Neps, without whose tireless help in the field none of this would have been possible. If you have any questions regarding his research, Cody can be contacted directly at

Blog post contribution by Bilan Haji-Mohamed, UGACR Photojournalism Intern, and Cody Cox

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