LDWF Bird Radio Tracking Project To More Than Double in Capacity Thanks to Grant From ConocoPhillips

Sept. 6, 2017 – The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Coastal Louisiana Array Project, used to track radio-tagged birds, will more than double in capacity by July 2018 thanks to a generous grant from ConocoPhillips.

This project started as a joint effort among LDWF, the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP) and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation (LWFF) in the spring of 2016. Louisiana’s network, based on Bird Studies Canada’s successful Motus Wildlife Tracking System, consists of multiple very high frequency (VHF) receiver stations constructed along the coast.

The ConocoPhillips’ grant will allow construction of an almost seamless digital network, consisting of 32 VHF receiver stations stretching from the Texas border to the Mississippi border. To support the donation, ConocoPhillips, through its subsidiary, The Louisiana Land Exploration Company LLC which owns approximately 636,000 acres, will provide free access to its property along the Southeast Louisiana coast.

"BTNEP is pleased to partner with the many organizations and funding partners who understand the value of tracking migratory birds,’’ said BTNEP Director Susan Testroet-Bergeron. “The key benefit of this technology is that it allows biologists to conduct research on target individuals without the requirement of recurring and often random visual observation. This low impact form of monitoring has led to tremendous advances in our knowledge of bird habitat use, breeding success and mortality."

Although radio-tracking of animals has occurred since the 1960s, the miniaturization of electronics and the collaborative nature of the Motus project have revolutionized animal tracking. Biologists across North America have been attaching miniature radio tags, called nanotags, to birds and other animals for several years. Nanotags emit radio signals that are detected by the receiver stations, allowing scientists to study animal behaviors like migration and allowing identification of sites for conservation.

To date, LDWF and BTNEP have constructed 13 receiver stations across coastal Louisiana. Several dozen birds, from songbirds to shorebirds, including federally threatened species like the red knot, have already been detected in just the first year of the project.

Because of the Motus program and Louisiana’s new coastal network, Louisiana scientists and colleagues across the globe are able to more efficiently study animal movements and implement conservation.

Generous funding from ConocoPhillips, BTNEP, LWFF and LDWF ensures Louisiana’s continued contribution to this novel, international scientific network.

For more information, contact LDWF ornithologist Michael Seymour at mseymour@wlf.la.gov or 225-763-3554.