SUNY Potsdam joins global network to track migratory birds

Updated: Sep. 15, 2020 at 1:00 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - It’s bird watching on a grand scale. SUNY Potsdam is now part of a global network tracking migratory birds.

Did you ever wonder where birds come from and where they’re going? SUNY Potsdam is now pitching in to help answer those questions with antennae on Bowman Hall.

“By having a network of these, you can see the movement patterns of migratory birds, insects, bats – that are flying through here,” said Glenn Johnson, SUNY Potsdam biology professor.

The network of more than 900 antennae is called the Motus Wildlife Tracking System. Some antennae are as close as Canton, Watertown and Copenhagen. Others are as far away as South America and Australia.

“It’s got real potential and we’ve got some folks in the biology department who might take advantage of what this can offer,” said Johnson.

Tiny radio transmitters fastened to birds and even insects send a signal to the antennae. A new data point is created every time one flies by. A bird starting out in Canada can be tracked to South America.

“SUNY Potsdam is fantastic because it is the entry point to the Adirondacks, which is known as a hot spot for stopover migrations for many migratory songbirds,” said Lisa Kiziuk, Willistown Conservation Trust director of bird conservation.

The antennae on Bowman Hall will track birds up to 15 miles away. With Potsdam in the Motus network, researchers and students will be able to use its data.

“I think it can lead to more people knowing about us and more things we can do with others,” said Johnson about SUNY Potsdam’s role in Motus.

The end goal with Motus is conservation. The organization estimates one-third of North American bird species need urgent protection to avoid extinction.

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