Netguns: A technique for capturing Black-backed Woodpeckers

Chad P. Lehman, Dylan C. Kesler, Christopher T. Rota, Mark A. Rumble, Eric M. Seckinger, Thomas M. Juntti, Joshua J. Millspaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Effective capture techniques are essential for studying bird populations, but commonly used techniques have proven ineffective for capturing Black-backed Woodpeckers (Picoides arcticus) during the nonbreeding period. As a result, little is known about the winter ecology of Black-backed Woodpeckers. We used two netguns, one powered with a 0.308 cartridge and another with CO2 propellant, to capture 101 Black-backed Woodpeckers (N= 75 initial captures and 26 recaptures) in the Black Hills of South Dakota from 2008 to 2011. Captures with the 0.308 netgun resulted in an impact mortality probability of 0.061 ± 0.034 (SE), whereas no impact mortalities were associated with the CO2 netgun. We also tracked birds for 72 h post-release, and determined a capture-related mortality rate of 0.102 ± 0.04 with the 0.308 netgun and 0.038 ± 0.027 with the CO2 netgun. With the CO2 netgun, we captured woodpeckers in 31 of 43 net deployments (72%), with an average of 7.2 ± 0.4 h of capture effort for each bird. Many unsuccessful attempts were caused by tree branches that prevented net deployment. Netguns powered by CO2 provide an effective capture technique that we recommend for studies of Black-backed Woodpeckers and possibly other species of birds that forage low on trees.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-435
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Field Ornithology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Black hills
  • Capture success
  • Capture technique
  • Handling time
  • Picoides arcticus


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