New Brunswick

Migratory birds tracked by radio transmitters in Maritimes

Bird Studies Canada has 200 towers in Eastern Canada, the Maritimes and as far south as Virgina to monitor migratory birds tagged with radio transmitters.

42 solar-powered towers in region are part of cross-border bird study

As soon as the snow starts to melt, researchers with Bird Studies Canada will be out in the field, expanding a project to track small birds along the Bay of Fundy using towers that pick up radio signals.

The Motus Wildlife Tracking System is a network of radio receivers on towers across eastern Canada and as far south as Virginia that detects the movements of birds during migration.

Researchers across the country have already tagged birds and bats with tiny radio transmitters and the towers pick up information about their travels.

"We don’t know a lot about where they go and where they spend the winter," said Laura Tranquillaprogram manager for Bird Studies Canada in the Atlantic region based in Sackville.

The towers are mounted on poles with an antenna at the top, anchored into the ground with guy lines. They work on solar panel technology so they can be put in any location.

The information gathered from the receivers helps identify where shorebirds stop over to rest during migration.

"It helps us identify priority habitat, places where birds are travelling that might need a bit of extra protection on the landscape," she said.

The transmitters are attached to the birds legs and are like a small harness over the hips of the bird.

"You have to catch the bird of course, which is done with a small net," Tranquilla said.  

"The transmitters are very small. The largest would be the size of a pencil eraser."

One of the tracking stations at the Irving Nature Park in Saint John has captured signals from many species already, including the blackpoll warbler and semipalmated sandpiper.

"The best part of this project is you know where the birds are coming from when they fly past the array of receivers," she said.

The birds recorded were tagged in Nova Scotia, Quebec and New England.

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