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Technology transforms everything we know about birds

Radio and satellite tracking, advanced radar and even feather analysis is radically expanding knowledge of migratory birds.

“GPS tracking is blowing the doors off everything we thought we knew about birds and bird migration. Some tracking devices are so sophisticated, they download data each time the bird flies near a cell phone tower. Information can then be delivered to the researcher’s cell phone, with the bird’s route plotted on Google Earth.”

Learn the details Wednesday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m., during a free presentation on “Techno-Birding” by Pamela Stagg, at the Bloomfield Town Hall. The event is part of Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory’s Spring Birding Festival.

“Learning about bird migration isn’t just an academic exercise,” said Stagg. “Researchers in Korea, for instance, are using tracking studies with Whooper Swans to see how avian flu is being spread. There have been lots of surprises from the new technology. Thanks to tracking devices, we now know that Northern Wheatears migrate more than 30,000 km between their breeding territory in Alaska and their wintering grounds in Africa, the longest known migratory route of all the songbirds.

“It’s easy to think of migrants like wood warblers as ‘our birds’,” she said. “But they may only be in our area for a few weeks each year. If we’re to save some of our most critically endangered species, we need to look at all the areas where the birds, live, not just local habitat. New technology will pinpoint all the places with birds call home.”

There will be shade-grown (bird-friendly) coffee and other refreshments available at the meeting. Everybody is welcome.

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