What is Motus

By Bernheim

Birds are probably the animals we encounter most in our lives. A glance out the window or even a short drive will almost certainly provide sightings or sounds of multiple birds. But these encounters are becoming less frequent.  According to a recent study by Cornell University, bird populations have declined by as many as 3 billion birds in the past 50 years.

For 91 years, Bernheim’s stewardship work has included protecting bird populations, including bird surveys and counts, golden eagle research and tracking, the reintroduction of quail and turkey, and most recently, songbird tracking in collaboration with Motus Wildlife Tracking System, for which we partnered with Cellular Tracking Technologies (CTT) and the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves.

Wood Thrush, photo by Kathy Dennis

Motus is an international network of researchers using coordinated base stations to study movements of wildlife on local, regional, and hemispheric scales. Bernheim outfitted four species of song birds with CTT LifeTags™, which allow birds to be tracked through multiple migrations, year after year. As birds fly over the nodes that are installed throughout the arboretum and forest, their LifeTag’s globally unique digital ID will check in, allowing real-time data to be collected on the bird’s movements throughout Bernheim, and anywhere they travel throughout the world where nodes are installed. This allows Bernheim to be a part of an international bird conservation effort. As the first site to install this system in Kentucky, we have helped to fill a crucial void in the system’s geographical reach.

The birds tagged at Bernheim were selected because are neotropical migrants that are some of Bernheim’s most charismatic breeders, are members of the “Partners in Flight” watch list and are species of greatest conservation need.  Much work remains for Bernheim and the global bird research community to unravel the reasons behind the decline in bird populations and to find lasting solutions. Bernheim will continue to protect and manage habitats for birds, work with the local, national and global bird communities on research, education, and outreach, and engage our 500,000 annual visitors in efforts to protect these incredible animals.

Songbirds outfitted with LifeTags in July 2019
Purple Martin
Kentucky Warbler
Wood Thrush
Indigo Bunting
Louisiana Waterthrush

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