Monitoring Migratory Birds
Upgrading the Motus equipment at the Canopy Tower, April 2021. Photo © Paz A. Irola.

The Canopy Family has been proud to participate in the Motus Wildlife Tracking System since 2016. Motus, a program of Birds Canada, is a research network that uses radio telemetry to monitor migratory birds. Small radio transmitters placed on migratory birds (or sometimes bats or insects) allow the animals to be detected by a network of monitoring stations as they pass within range. By locating these stations strategically along migration routes, Motus can help provide important insights into the ecology of migratory birds, including data about migration timing and habitat preferences valuable for conservation efforts.

Motus researchers have been working hard to expand and improve coverage in Central America. According to Ernesto Carman, who works on Motus projects in Panama as well as in Costa Rica, “the larger the Motus network is, the better it will function. Each Motus station that gets installed helps fill in gaps of information, and this network is beginning to expand quickly throughout Central America. Central America is a key area for Neotropical migratory birds, both as a stopover and refueling site as well as for overwintering.”

Currently, Motus’s Panama Gateway project operates a “fence” of four monitoring stations across the canal zone of Panama, from Galeta to Panama City, one of which is hosted by our very own Canopy Tower. This fence provides efficient detection coverage across the isthmus of Panama, which funnels millions of songbirds, raptors, and shorebirds through a narrow area on their way north or south each spring and fall. Last month researchers paid a visit to the Tower, along with two other stations in Panama, to upgrade the Motus equipment (see above). On April 20, the Motus station at the Canopy Tower detected a Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) that was originally tagged last September in British Columbia!


Swainson’s Thrushes are very common passage migrants in Panama.

Learn more:

“MOTUS Costa Rica: el inicio,” March 24, 2021:

“Motus Wildlife Tracking System,” December 1, 2017:

“Panama Welcomes the Motus Wildlife Tracking System,” May 4, 2016: