RIT Avian Research Station


photo collage of birdsThe RIT Avian Research Station (RARS) is an outdoor learning environment on the RIT campus dedicated to the study and conservation of birds. RARS was established to provide on-campus opportunities for students to learn and practice real-world field research skills in avian biology, including bird banding, and to engage faculty and students in sustainable campus activities.

RARS supports classes and labs in the College of Science and NTID. The station banding shed, surrounding habitat, and associated trails provide a unique outdoor learning environment for avian-related and environmental teaching activities. Bird banding demonstrations are also available for guest lectures and labs.

Take a class at the RIT Avian Research Station!

Ornithology (Biol-444) meets regularly at RARS during the fall semester. The course will cover the major principles in ornithology from evolutionary origins to the study of physiology, flight, behavior, life history traits and conservation. Exploration of current topics in avian biology and exploration of bird diversity will be key features of the lecture and lab. Labs will introduce current techniques in applied avian research and monitoring in both the field and the lab.

About Dr. Pagano

Dr. Susan Pagano holding sparrow

Dr. Susan Pagano is an Associate Professor of Biology in the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences. She teaches Ornithology (BIOL-444), Animal Nutrition (BIOL-414) and Comparative Animal Physiology (BIOL-313). She is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society and a Master Bander is associated with the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory (BBBO), where she conducts much of her research. She has also served as Associate Editor for Condor:Ornithological Applications since 2013. Her current research focuses on bird migration physiology, health and stress metrics in birds, and the nutritional ecology of songbirds, particularly as it relates to the quality of native and invasive berries for birds. Undergraduate students are integral to the research lab, and students have the opportunity to participate in field work at RARS and BBBO, and lab work related to the physiology of migratory birds and nutritional analysis of foods for wildlife.


Current Research Students

headshot of Lauren Walter
Lauren Walter
(third-year biology)

headshot of Gabriella Orfanides
Gabriella Orfanides
(fourth-year biology)

headshot of Aidan Mahar
Aidan Mahar
(second-year chemical engineering)

headshot of Rachael Hoh
Rachael Hoh

(fifth-year biology)

Past Research Students

Victoria Kwasinski
Victoria Kwasinski
(Biology '22)

headshot of Cynthia Loi
Cynthia Loi
(Biology '22)

Erica Delles
Erica Delles
(Biology '20)

Jenifer Rosete
Jenifer Rosete
(Environmental Science '20)

headshot of Gretchen Horst
Gretchen Horst
(Biology '19)

Headshot of Molly Border
Molly Border
(Biology '19)

headshot of Kate Hensel
Kate Hensel
(Biology '19)

headshot of Abigail Frawley
Abigail Frawley
(Biology '18)

Alexandra Bros
(Biology '22)

Bird Lists

Common Name Season Local Breeder Migrant
American Goldfinch Summer, Fall X  
American Robin Summer, Fall X  
American Redstart Fall   X
Baltimore Oriole Summer X  
Blackburnian Warbler Fall   X
Black-capped Chickadee Fall X  
Blackpoll Warbler Fall   X
Blue Jay Fall X  
Brown-headed Cowbird Summer X  
Cape May Warbler Fall   X
Cedar Waxwing Summer X  
Common Yellowthroat Summer, Fall X  
Downy Woodpecker Fall X  
Eastern Wood-Pewee Summer X  
Field Sparrow Summer, Fall X  
Golden-crowned Kinglet Fall   X
Great-crested Flycatcher Summer X  
Gray Catbird Summer, Fall X  
Hermit Thrush Fall   X
House Wren Fall X  
Least Flycatcher Fall   X
Lincoln's Sparrow Fall   X
Magnolia Warbler Fall   X
Nashville Warbler Fall   X
Northern Cardinal Fall X  
Northern Mockingbird Fall X  
Red-eyed Vireo Fall X  
Red-winged Blackbird Summer X  
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Fall   X
Song Sparrow Summer, Fall X  
Swamp Sparrow Summer, Fall X  
Trail's Flycatcher Summer, Fall X  
Tufted Titmouse Fall X  
Warbling Vireo Fall X  
Western Palm Warbler Fall   X
White-breasted Nuthatch Summer X  
White-throated Sparrow Fall   X
Wilson's Warbler Fall   X
Wood Thrush Summer X  
Yellow Warbler Summer X  
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Summer X  
Yellow-billed Cuckoo Summer X  
Yellow-rumped Warbler Fall   X
Yellow-shafted Flicker Summer X  


Common Name Season ID
American Woodcock Spring Sight
American Kestrel Fall  
Canada Goose Summer, Fall Flyover
Chipping Sparrow Summer Song
Common Grackle Summer Sight
Eastern Towhee Summer Song
European Starling Summer  
European Starling Summer Sight
Great-horned Owl Summer, Fall Sight
House Finch Summer, Fall Song
Killdeer Summer, Fall Song
Mourning Dove Summer Sight, Song
Osprey Summer  
Purple Finch Fall Sight, Song
Red-bellied Woodpecker Fall Call
Red-tailed Hawk Summer, Fall Sight
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Summer, Fall Sight
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Summer, Fall  
Sharp-shinned Hawk Fall Sight
Turkey Vulture Summer, Fall Sight
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Fall Sight, Song
Wild Turkey Summer Sight



headshot of Lauren Walter
Lauren Walter
Summer 2022

photo of Gretchen Horst
Gretchen Horst
Summer 2018

photo of Abigail Frawley
Abigail Frawley
Summer 2017

photo of invasive common buckthornFruit nutrition for migratory birds: RARS supports research on the nutritional ecology of migratory birds, and the impact of invasive fruiting plants on bird health and physiological condition. (photo of invasive Common Buckthorn at RARS)

Current Project: Nutritional quality and chemical characterization of native and naturalized buckthorns (Rhamnacae). Collaborators: Dr. Todd Pagano and Morgan Bida, Dept. of Science and Math, NTID


Lauren Walter worked on her Emerson Summer Undergraduate Research Project, “Breeding Physiology of Three Songbird Species at a Lakeshore and an Urban Site.”

Lauren with two songbirds

We also welcomed members of the RIT Birding Club to the station.

BIOL-444 Ornithology labs at RARS:

student holding a bird

two hands holding a bird

student banding a bird

RARS Special Events:

We welcomed the Zoological and Botanical Illustration class for an afternoon of bird banding in October.

Fall 2020 Banding: We had another successful fall season at the station with the help of our RIT undergraduate student crew. Despite the pandemic restrictions, we were able to band birds safely outside on several lovely fall mornings and train several students. We banded several new species for the station this fall!

students banding birds

RARS Special Events:

We welcomed students from the Vertebrate Zoology course on multiple banding days and hosted the Concepts of Environmental Science class for their Friday Lab in September.

We also hosted the RIT Pre-Vet Club for hands-on bird banding skills training in early October.

Fall migratory bird banding.

students working inside avian research station

two banded birds

student holding banded bird

banded bird with its wings spread

banded bird perched on a hand

banded bird perched on a hand

banded bird perched on a hand


Here are some highlights from the Summer of 2019.

sparrow sparrow
sparrow sparrow

Baby Yellow Warbler
Baby Yellow Warbler


Here are some highlights from the Fall of 2018.

students working in research station

bird sitting on a hand
two birds sitting on hands small bird sitting on a hand


Birds Banded at RARS

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Yellow-shafted Flicker with aberrant orange plumage coloration.

banded bird
This pattern has been linked to consumption of invasive Lonicera spp. berries containing the carotenoid rhodoxanthin.

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banded birds

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First banded bird at RARS - Wood Thrush