American Kestrel project sets the stage for Motus expansion in Minnesota

Written by Kristin Hall
Kristin Hall (MN DNR) with an American Kestrel fledgling

Kristin A. L. Hall is an MMN member and State Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The decline of American Kestrels in North America is alarming. The Minnesota DNR prioritized the need to conduct research on this species as an action item within our Wildlife Action Plan. Population trends for American Kestrels based on the federal Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) indicate a significant decline of −2.68% per year from 1967 to 2015 in Minnesota. Our research approach is guided by a paper titled Research Recommendations for Understanding the Decline of American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) Across Much of North America (McClure 2017), specifically our research is focused on:

  1. Better understanding fledgling survivability through tracking fledglings using the Motus network for at least 1-year post-fledging.
  2. Understanding full-life cycle needs of adult kestrels by tracking them from known nest boxes via Motus telemetry.

Our project will help us better understand which of the kestrel’s life phases is most vulnerable to mortality, narrowing the current information gap on primary threats.

Read more: American Kestrel project sets the stage for Motus expansion in Minnesota

Grant Award Broadens Motus Network in Midwest and Neotropics

Written by Sarah Kendrick
Motus tower installation in Wisconsin

In early 2020, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) was awarded a USFWS Competitive State Wildlife Grant with 4 other state agencies and 5 non-profit or academic partners to install 57 new Motus receivers: 46 in eight Midwestern states and 11 in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Colombia.

The grant also supports three research projects:

  • University of Maine’s Golden-winged Warbler tagging and tracking
  • American Kestrel tracking in Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • Spring-migration tagging of Golden-winged Warblers and Wood Thrush on the wintering grounds by MDC and SELVA (Colombia)

The Midwest Migration Network has provided a solid network of support for the grant proposal and helped in its facilitation.

New receiver stations placed with this grant award will strengthen the Motus network substantially across the region and on stop-over sites and wintering grounds to provide new and accurate data on many Motus-tagged species of migratory birds including three of interest to the project’s partners: the golden-winged warbler, wood thrush and American Kestrel. The data will help inform the USFWS's status review of the Golden-winged Warbler for potential listing under the Endangered Species Act. The project will also add to the strategic Motus network in the Midwest, allowing other researchers to collaborate and collect new information on a wide variety of birds, bats, and insects identified in State Wildlife Action Plans. Motus stations are planned to be placed by spring 2022 and research projects partially funded by the grant will run through 2022.

Read more: Grant Award Broadens Motus Network in Midwest and Neotropics

MMN Participates in Connectivity Challenge: Birds Connect Us

Screen capture from Connectivity Challenge pitch

In 2020, the Midwest Migration Network was part of a collaborative grant proposal for the Connectivity Challenge, created to fund meaningful change in the field of conservation by the Salazar Center for North American Conservation in partnership with Colorado State University’s  inaugural Conservation Impact Prize.

The Audubon Great Lakes engagement team, with support from several MMN Steering Committee members, led the proposal titled “Birds Connect Us: Empowering Communities through Migratory Bird Technology.” Our team was one of five finalists in the running for the Connectivity Challenge. We are honored to have been selected to participate in a live virtual pitch event hosted by the Salazar Center on September 16. You can view a recording of that pitch, delivered by Audubon Great Lakes’ Jeremiah Steen, in the embedded video below or by clicking here.

Our vision for this project is to bring together community members in Detroit and Milwaukee, two major urban centers and migratory bird hotspots along the Great Lakes, and connect them to exciting migratory science research happening where they live. Audubon Great Lakes’ Wild Indigo Nature Explorations Program already works extensively with communities of color in these two cities, with emphases on program co-development and meeting communities where they are. Our goal was to enhance Wild Indigo’s work by incorporating Motus wildlife tracking technology into curricula and providing STEM education, career-building activities, and mentorship opportunities for community members. This important work aims to connect community members to research and researchers. By engaging community members more deeply in the process of understanding how migratory birds use the landscapes in their neighborhoods, we seek to foster the importance of preserving local green spaces for migratory birds and people. Our hope is for this project to serve as a model for future projects connecting communities to Motus technology across the continent and beyond.

Although we were not selected as the winner, we will continue to seek funding opportunities to support program development and Motus tower installation in communities where the Wild Indigo team is working. We will also continue taking steps toward some of the initiatives set forth in our proposal, such as further integrating community engagement with MMN initiatives.


If you would like to learn how you can help in making Motus come to life through community engagement programs in the Great Lakes region or beyond, please contact Stephanie Beilke, Audubon Great Lakes Conservation Science Manager:

To learn more about MMN’s Telemetry initiative, which focuses on Motus Wildlife Tracking, click here.

Thanks for making our first virtual conference a success!

We did it! We want to thank over a dozen speakers and over 300 participants for making our first ever Midwest Migration Network Virtual Conference “Connecting Birds and People in the Midwest” a great success! Event highlights included two excellent keynote presentations from Pete Marra and Fabiola Rodríguez, research updates from all the MMN initiatives, as well as some spectacular visualizations of bird migration from the Radar & Acoustics initiative.

In case you missed the conference, you can still view recordings from all of the sessions on our YouTube channel. Individual sessions are also linked below:

If you want to stay up to date on the latest MMN news and happenings, don’t forget to become a member by joining here.

MMN Virtual Conference: Connecting Birds & People in the Midwest, July 21-23, 2020

The Midwest Migration Network (MMN) invites you to join our first ever virtual public conference “Connecting Birds & People in the Midwest” on July 21-23, 2020, featuring special keynote speakers Pete Marra, Director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative, and Fabiola Rodríguez, Ph.D. candidate at Tulane and research collaborator with the Mesoamerican Development Institute.

Join us to:

  • Discover the latest findings in the world of migration science and conservation from leading experts from across our region and beyond.
  • Be inspired by advances in innovative technology used to track migratory birds, from radar to telemetry.
  • Join researchers and conservationists working at the forefront of bird migration science and learn how this information is informing conservation actions.

Over the course of this three-day conference, our program will feature two keynote sessions that will provide a broad overview of MMN’s work and how we connect with research from throughout the western hemisphere. Four working sessions will delve into MMN’s initiatives seeking to address regional questions by implementing the latest technologies with collaborative approaches: Banding and Ground Surveys, Great Lakes Wind-Wildlife Coalition, Radar and Acoustics, and Telemetry.

This event is free for all attendees, though we welcome donations of $10 or more to support our mission to advance collaborative bird migration research and conservation.

To learn more and for a full meeting schedule, please review the Conference Program.

Register now through Zoom:

New MMN Initiative: The Great Lakes Wind-Wildlife Coalition

Flickr Creative Commons

The Midwest Migration Network is excited to announce the addition of a fourth initiative! The Great Lakes Wind-Wildlife Coalition was organized with the intent of minimizing impacts to birds and bats by nearshore and offshore wind energy development in the Great Lakes. The group seeks to accomplish this by proactively informing and providing guidance for wind facility planning based on best available science.

Currently, a single five-turbine wind energy facility is in operation in U.S. marine waters off the coast of Rhode Island. Following this precedent-setting project, many more offshore facilities are in various stages of planning along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in Hawaii. The Great Lakes, on the other hand, remain a frontier region for offshore wind energy development. The Great Lakes and their shorelines are used by a vast number of birds, creating a clear need to ensure that best practices and current science are used to guide offshore wind development.

The Coalition has identified two primary objectives. To form the scientific baseline of this work, the group will gather and synthesize current offshore bird and bat movement data, which will also provide an opportunity to identify data needed to fully inform facility planning. Concurrently, best management practices for facility development will be synthesized, and a guidance document prepared for use by developers and resource management agencies. 

We are very excited about this new initiative and look forward to broad participation within our network of members!