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Bernheim offers new bird conservation initiative

By Amy Joseph Landon

Source: The News-Enterprise
August 4, 2019

Bernheim offers new bird conservation initiative
Submitted A Louisiana Waterthrush tagged at Bernheim.


Bernheim Arboretum and Re­search Forest is join­ing a global wildlife tracking program to help Bern­heim and the greater bird conservation community con­tinue to protect bird species and their habitats.

Bernheim, a regional leader in wildlife conservation technology, is the first in Kentucky to join the global Motus Wildlife Tracking System. Partnering with Cell­ular Tracking Technologies (CTT) and the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves, the new infrastructure pro­vides cutting-edge capabilities for wildlife tracking, environmental education and bird research.

“This project is a continuation of Bernheim’s 90 years of research into bird migration and habitat use,” said Dr. Mark Wourms, Bern­heim executive di­rec­tor. “We’ve documented 229 species of birds, in­clud­ing the ongoing tracking of Golden Eagles that reside in Bernheim during winter.”

Data collected will increase understanding of how birds use Bernheim’s habitats, identify migrating species, facilitate networking with other bird researchers using Motus and provide outreach and education to Bernheim’s visitors and the greater public, according to a news release.

“We will use the information we gain to further our mission to protect large forest blocks and the habitat these birds depend upon during migration to locations from Canada and South America,” said Bernheim’s Director of Conservation Andrew Berry.

Bernheim already is an internationally renown­ed destination for birders and designated as an Im­por­tant Bird Area by the Audubon Society. With the new installation, Bernheim fills an important gap in the existing Motus network in North America.

“If a bird is tagged with a transmitter from any­where in the world and passes by a Bernheim Sen­sor­Station or Node, that information will be trans­mitted back to the network and the appropriate re­searcher,” said Berry. “Equally interesting, if one of our Bernheim-tagged birds flies over a Motus station elsewhere on its migration route, that information will be transmitted back to us, ultimately adding to our understanding of bird and other wildlife migration.”

Bernheim also will install a data portal display at the Bernheim Education Center, giving visitors a real-time look at what tagged birds are doing throughout Bernheim. A handheld CTT Locator unit will be available for researchers or school groups to provide real-time tracking of animals in the field, adding a high-­tech educational tool that contributes to Bernheim’s research and outreach goals.

By law, all banding and tagging must be done by licensed bird banders and under strict federal per­mits. In Bernheim’s case, all banding was done by Zeb Weese of the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves, whose agency conducts biological inventories on natural areas throughout the state. The trans­mitter attachment was carried out by Michael Lanzone, president and CEO of CTT.

“Natural areas and nature preserves are increasingly important for neotropical migrant songbird populations as habitat loss increases throughout their ranges,” Weese said. “We’re very excited to be partners on this cutting-edge project. With this technology, we’ll get very specific information on the arrival and departure of these migratory birds, as well as learn more about their use of habitat during the breeding season.”

Regular updates will be made as the Bernheim team tracks these migrating birds on their journey to various locations.

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