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Belle Isle Nature Center Tracking System

By Detroit Zoo Communications Team
min read

Wildlife Tracking System Takes Flight at the Belle Isle Nature Center

A newly-erected wildlife tracking tower at the Belle Isle Nature Center in Detroit, Mich., is collecting data about the movements of birds, bats, and insects such as butterflies and dragonflies as part of an international network aimed at strengthening knowledge and conservation of wildlife.

The new tower supports the Motus program, which uses coordinated radio telemetry to record the location of tagged animals who fly past or near one of these towers. Motus towers all over the world create a vast array of data used to map the movements of flying animals, including migratory birds, bats, and insects.

Dark-eyed Junco

Motus, which means “movement” in Latin, was developed by Bird Studies Canada in collaboration with Acadia University and other research partners. The system enables an international community of researchers, educators, organizations, and citizens to undertake impactful research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals.

“Belle Isle is in a well-known migratory route for several species of birds,” said Bonnie Van Dam, associate curator of birds for the Detroit Zoological Society in Detroit, Mich. “It is a stopover site for migrating waterfowl and a hot spot for migrating songbirds.”

Motus antennae

North America has seen a net decline of three billion birds since 1970. In the fight to protect vulnerable species, information is power. With help from the Motus data pool, scientists are able to pinpoint locations for conservation efforts like “lights out for migration,” in which building owners are encouraged to turn off excessive lighting. This can help prevent birds from colliding with tall structures and provides a safer migratory route through cities.

“We are thrilled to be part of the Motus network and to help build knowledge that aids conservation of birds, bats and other animals in southeast Michigan and around the world,” said Van Dam. 

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