Feds support project to track species in decline

If the draft habitat conservation plan is approved and the incidental take permit is issued, the counties would be authorized to take up to a total of three northern long-eared bats (above), three little brown bats, and three tricolored bats over the 25-year project duration. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services photo)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to support a proposal for further expansion of the Motus Wildlife Tracking System in Pennsylvania and four other states to monitor eight migratory species of greatest conservation and other wildlife.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission will lead a team involving the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Northeast Motus Collaboration and other partnering organizations to collect life-cycle information of seven migratory birds and one bat that have been in serious declines for at least years, and in some cases, decades.

The USFWS is providing $497,929 to help underwrite this wildlife surveillance, which tracks migrating animals with nanotags – radio transmitters so small, they can be fitted to monarch butterflies. Collaboration member organizations and others are providing more than $225,000 to meet federal matching funding requirements.

The Pennsylvania species being targeted by this fieldwork are Swainson’s thrush, wood thrush, blackpoll warblers, Canada warblers, rusty blackbirds, American woodcock and northern long-eared bats. Other priority species, such as New England’s Bicknell’s thrush, also are targeted by this research.

But this proposal covers more than Pennsylvania. It will work to establish more receiving stations in four other states: New York, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware.

Other objectives of the telemetry surveillance project include:

  • Northern long-eared bats will be tagged at a Centre County maternity colony and tracked to establish their migratory routes and use of hibernacula during the summer and winter of 2019.
  • American woodcock and wood thrushes, captured at banding stations and rescued from window collisions will be tagged and their movements and survival will be tracked.
  • Swainson’s thrushes will be tagged to measure their migratory movements and use of hemlock habitat in Forest and Warren counties with an aim to protect critical thrush habitat.

Overall, the project intends to shed more details on bird migration routes, timing, even post-breeding dispersal movements. It also has the potential to provide life-cycle data that would help protect currently unrecognized important habitat, such as high-use migratory stop-overs.

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