South Carolina Towers Protect Birds
South Carolina Towers – Jennifer McCarthey Tyrrell heard a junco squeak and rustle in a bush as she strolled along the wooded trails at Caesar’s Head State Park in Upstate South Carolina. She also noticed an ovenbird’s hut-like nest and a palm-sized hole in a tree that she knows was made by a pileated woodpecker.
Although Tyrrell has a better method of determining which birds are at the state park and when, these hints help her understand what kinds of birds use the forest.
Tyrrell is the engagement manager for Audubon South Carolina and a master bird bander. She is in charge of installing and maintaining Motus towers, a new technology that will aid researchers all over the world in tracking, understanding, and protecting birds. Her job involves advocacy, research, and education.
South Carolina Towers
How does it function?
Tyrell and other researchers use radio transmitters to capture and tag birds. The tags are so lightweight that they may be applied to huge creatures like butterflies and bats. The animal’s tag sends out a signal that is picked up by a Motus tower when it passes one. The tower is linked to a computer, which transmits the data of the bird to a database where scientists can view each bird’s past.
Tyrrell added, “I kind of compare it to a toll pass.” “As you pass through the checkpoint, a small tag attached to your automobile picks it up, and you are then paid a price. The only difference is that the birds are not compensated for their services.
Compared to other tracking techniques, Motus is more efficient and less expensive. Bird banders capture a bird, attach a tiny metal band to its leg, then manually record information on the bird’s location, the time it was found, and its health. Another bird bander would have to recapture it in order to learn more about its behaviour.
Another technique includes placing a tiny tracker on the bird to record its whereabouts, but it must be recaptured and removed the next year to download the data.
Tyrrell added, “It’s incredibly hard to catch them again, and not all birds come back.” Birds don’t live very long, and migration is quite perilous. You devote a lot of time and money into marketing your units, and you might receive a few sales.
In addition to studying red knots, an endangered bird that uses the region as a migratory pit stop, and Baltimore orioles, which spend the winter in South Carolina, Tyrrell said Audubon is collaborating with state and federal wildlife organizations.
“It’s like a big group scientific project,” someone said.
Group initiatives are required because birds are under more threat than ever, including habitat loss, climate change, a lack of food, and pesticides. According to a Cornell University study published in Science in 2019, the loss of approximately 3 billion birds in North American bird populations since 1970 is unprecedented. The most severely impacted birds are common species like the red-headed woodpecker and yellow-throated warbler.
They’ve recorded more than 200 birds since setting up their first tower in 2019 at Dewees Island with the Dewees Island Conservancy in Charleston. In order to better understand what birds need to survive and their whole annual lifecycle conservation requirements, they intend to erect at least four more towers and implant Motus nanotags on more birds in 2022.
According to Tyrrell, “if we see a drop in bird populations, it’s usually a sign of a greater problem, like climate change or a pesticide or pollution issue going on.” When we protect birds and the habitats they require, we also gain access to a healthier and cleaner environment. “Birds really tell us what’s going on in our environment.