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Zoo Miami's Motus tower helps researchers track birds during migration

MIAMI – As we approach the end of summer, we'll expect more flocks of birds from the north in the sky. Migratory season starts roughly in late August, but researchers say we are seeing less birds.

"For decades, they had this pattern. We knew where to find them, where they fed, where they nested. And as sea levels have risen and within the last 10 years, it’s changed everything for them," Dr. Frank Ridgley, of Zoo Miami, said. 

Climate change and habitat loss have contributed to the decline in migratory birds. But with a new Motus Wildlife Tracking System tower in Zoo Miami, researchers can use a small tag device to track their path.

The Motus tower is the first of its kind in a zoo in Florida and the third in the U.S. 

It's able to pick up anything that flies from here to Biscayne and from Doral to parts of the Everglades. 

"We can catch birds that are going along the coast and in the natural areas, or even the ones sharing Miami with us in the city," Ridgley said. 

The device is small enough to put on bats, monarchs and large dragonflies and is nearly undetectable to the wildlife.

"We have so many universities working with wildlife and looking at these issues that if there's not a tower like this, they don't even look to consider starting a project that uses this technology," Ridgley said. 

The Motus tower will help tie South Florida to a global research network to study and continue learning about our friends in the sky.