Motus Wildlife Tracking System

Imagine a high-stakes game of hide and seek with some of nature's most elusive players. That's precisely what we do with the MOTUS Wildlife Tracking System – a collaborative research effort simultaneously tracking numerous species of birds, bats, and insects.  

MOTUS employs cutting-edge technology: tiny radio tags, each with a unique digital ID, in conjunction with automated receiving stations. These stations work like antennas, detecting the presence or absence of tagged organisms within their range.  Motus offers valuable insights into animal movements and migrations.  It enables a community of researchers, educators, organizations, and community scientists to undertake impactful research that translates into on-the-ground conservation for migratory birds.   

Each station has a maximum detection radius of approximately nine miles. To optimize coverage and manage costs effectively, we establish transects, which create virtual barriers in key areas to ensure that tagged organisms are reliably detected. 

Lake Michigan Bird Observatory has two primary goals for Motus:  

1. Strategically place Motus towers along two major flyways – Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River.  These stations ensure coverage along these significant migratory corridors supporting researchers in answering critical questions.    

2. Establish east-west Motus fences connecting Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River.  Not all birds follow major flyways and east-west fences provide data on these birds.  Plus, these east-west fence lines help scientists track timing of north-south migrations. 

With 22 stations and counting, including 15 next to Lake MI, one near the Mississippi River, and six forming the beginning of the east-west fence lines, we're on a roll. We are actively pursuing funding and partnerships to accelerate the placement of towers in critical locations, the majority of which are in or near Important Bird Areas. 

Data collected from each station is easily accessible on the MOTUS website. Users can select a station and view data related to the animals detected at that specific location. Information includes details such as when an organism was tagged, its species, and its journey. Since our station installation efforts began in 2019, we have successfully detected over 80 birds.  

Join us in our mission to understand and protect the natural world.