Motus Station
The Columbia Motus Station at Moss-Waters Memorial Wildlife Area on Old Hwy 63 south of Stadium Blvd.

Sarah Kendrick, guest blog author, is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Biologist and MMN Telemetry Initiative Chair.

In my previous role as state ornithologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), one of the grants that I led to increase Motus stations in the state, Midwest region, and the Neotropics was a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Competitive State Wildlife Grant with 9 other partners – state agencies, universities (many of whom are MMN members), and organizations like SELVA, a non-profit in Colombia dedicated to bird conservation efforts and learning more about bird migration. This grant is placing 60 new Motus stations across 8 Midwestern states and Mexico, Costa Rica, and Colombia and supports three Motus-tagging research projects.

One of these research projects was a partnership with MDC and SELVA to deploy 50 tags – 25 Motus tags on Golden-winged Warbler and 25 on Wood Thrush on the wintering grounds pre-migration. To execute this grant objective, I traveled to Costa Rica in early March to deploy as many tags as we could in a week with SELVA’s Nick Bayly and Costa Rican partner Paz Irola and Ernesto Carman. On the trip in a week, we tagged five Wood Thrush and four Golden-winged Warblers at various sites.

Bear with me for some continued background. In late 2021, a Motus station was purchased by Columbia Audubon Society in honor of Brad Jacobs and placed in Columbia, MO in partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation. Brad Jacobs was the previous ornithologist at MDC and a major advocate for studying and investing in full life-cycle conservation, especially by state agencies via the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Southern Wings Program; Brad passed away in May 2020. This Columbia Motus station was placed on December 30 (a news story about the effort was published by the Columbia Missourian) and awaited its first detection this spring.

20220305 095340This male Golden-winged Warbler was tagged in Costa Rica by SELVA and MDC and later detected on two Missouri Motus stations, including Columbia on May 8.The first detection came on May 8 – and it was a male Golden-winged Warbler that our group tagged on March 5 in Ernesto Carman’s bird-friendly coffee
farm, Finca Cristina. This bird has been detected twice in Missouri – first on May 1 on the Hurley station in southwest Missouri and the May 8 detection at Columbia. Not only are these detections mind-blowingly coincidental, but they also give us data on a seven-day stop-over on spring migration for this bird. The bird stopped in Missouri, possibly in Ozark forest, to refuel and regain energy along its journey north. Our strategy for taggingGWWA CR MO2022Pathway of Golden-winged Warbler detection on the Columbia Motus Station. Tagged on Mar. 5 in Costa Rica, detected on May 1 at Hurley station and May 8 at Columbia station. these birds pre-migration is to increase the probability of later detections as they move north toward our more numerous receives on spring migration since there are more Motus stations in the U.S. and Canada than down on the wintering grounds. Another goal of the southern Motus array is to capture potential movements of birds through our contiguous blocks of Ozark forest that we suspect are serving as stopover habitat for forest birds – these detections (and others) on our Motus stations are helping us to validate these assumptions with data.

A second male Golden-winged Warbler that partners Paz Irola and Ernesto Carman tagged after our team left Costa Rica has been detected at another Motus station in Missouri at the MDC Southwest Regional Office in Springfield on April 29; that bird was tagged March 29 in Costa Rica.

A third male that our group caught and processed on March 5 was also detected in Iowa on May 12 on a new station funded by the C-SWG and placed by partner Anna Buckardt Thomas!

And finally, a female Golden-winged Warbler that Paz and Ernesto tagged in late February was detected just days ago in northern Missouri.

These detections provide further evidence that the more Motus stations you have across the landscape in strategic arrays, the more we can learn about migration ecology and more tags will be deployed with across that network together.