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Migratory Bird Studies

As our name implies, one of our primary goals as BCA is to understand migration not simply on a local scale, but across the Americas. There are more than 350 migratory bird species which occur in North America. Many of these species overwinter in the tropics and return every spring to breed in North America, species which are commonly referred to as "Neotropical migrants." Thus, to better conserve and monitor these species, we must understand their full annual cycle including their important stopover sites, migration routes, and breeding and wintering locations. Currently, our migratory bird studies are focused in the Southeastern US, namely MS, AL, GA, and FL. However, we forsee this expanding as we grow as an organization. Our primary focus is on migratory passerines and non-passerine landbirds (songbirds, hummingbirds, cuckoos, etc.). With new emerging technology, we are always thinking of ways we can increase our efforts by combining bird banding with new tracking

techinques. This includes using geolocators, GPS tags, ARU devices, and automated telemetry. Below  describes some of the current ways we are studying migratory birds and specific projects. 

Geolocators are lightweight devices that can be deployed on species as a mode of tracking movements. Rather than the device collecting coordinates, the device collects light information for roughly one year. This light information, with some coding, can be transformed to location/coordinate information. In order to retrieve the data, however, we must retreive the unit. 

What are geolocators?

What are ARUs?

ARUs or Automated Recording Units are a type of technology which records flight calls of birds. These calls can me inputed into Machine Learning program which helps to identifiying the numbers and species flying overhead.

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Automated Telemetry

One of the other ways we can monitor birds is using automated telemetry such a Motus. We can deploy antennas which have a coverage for a certain amount of area. Only signals and tags with a specific band width when in range will ping the tower and the data will automatically be uploaded. We we set to deploy Coastal Alabama's first Motus Tower in August 2023 in partnership with Dr. Orin Robinson (Cornell University) and the Dauphin Island Sealab. We hope to help expand the Motus network even more as funding and time allows! For more information about motus, go here

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Fort Morgan Bird Banding

In the fall of 2019, BCA Co-founders Emma Rhodes and Kyle Shepard ran a pilot banding station at the Fort Morgan State Historic Site near Gulf Shores, Alabama. BCA hosted the public bird banding event again in 2021. This is an opportunity for folks to watch research in action and to learn more about migratory birds and see them up close. Please watch for updates and details of the event as it gets closer! This is a free event. 

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Pictures from our 2019 fall banding effort. Left: Philadelphia Vireo. Right: Emma and a volunteer recording data.

Left: A Brown-headed Nuthatch about to be released at Fort Morgan. Right: A male Common Yellowthroat. 

Migration and Urbanization Study

Orange Beach, AL

This project is closed to the public because it takes place on 14 acres of private property mostly comprised of cypress swamp and mixed bottomland hardwoods. As neo-tropical migrants fly northbound from Central and South America, this site offers a stopover site for tired birds to pause, rest, and refuel before continuing to their respective breeding grounds. It plays the same role as migrants move south to their wintering grounds.

We launched our pilot study of this property in April of 2020, and it showed enough promise to continue monitoring this site as the areas surrounding it becomes more and more urbanized. "Bird Hotspots" or stopover sites like these are essential to the survival of migratory bird species. Deforestation does not just affect migrants on their breeding and wintering grounds but also every single place they stop in between. Keep an eye on our blog section for updates on this project! 

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