Southern Sierra Research Station

...conserving biological diversity through research

Motus Wildlife Tracking

SSRS is working with the Partners In Flight Western Working Group (PIF WWG) on the Western Motus Initiative to expand the Motus wildlife tracking network in Western North and South America. The Motus Wildlife Tracking System is an international collaborative research network of automated radio-telemetry receiving stations. Led by Birds Canada, Motus facilitates landscape-scale research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals. The current receiver station array comprises more than 800 sites from the Canadian Arctic to South America, with additional arrays in Europe and Australia, involving more than 600 collaborators. Since 2013, more than 20,000 individuals of more than 200 species have been monitored using this system. Data collected from these stations feed into the Motus database housed at Birds Canada's National Data Centre where it is archived, visualized, and distributed to researchers and the public through various outlets.

Please browse the interactive map above to learn more about projects in various stages of development throughout the west. Colored circles are PIF WWG related projects and black dots are active stations (see legend). Clicking on individuals circles will reveal information about the project, a contact name, and other metadata. We hope this tool will facilitate increased collaboration among researchers throughout the west.

Despite the successes of Motus research throughout the existing network, there are notable and significant gaps across the western portions of North and South America. Therefore, the primary mission of the Western Motus Initiative is to expand the use of automated telemetry technology to provide information on western birds needed to develop effective conservation actions within the next decade. This exciting project is being spearheaded by the Partners in Flight Western Working Group (PIF WWG).

Short-term objectives include building the network within the west to answer to fill critical information gaps for priority species and expanding the partnership to include bats and insects. The following areas of study are needed for most landbirds and shorebirds:

  1. Arrival and departure times on breeding grounds
  2. Overwinter survival
  3. Stopover duration
  4. Regional and site level stopover and molt-migrant fidelity
  5. Post-fledging survival and dispersal
  6. Breeding habitat use

Long-term objectives include filling spatial gaps in the array, ensuring the longevity of the network, and meeting research needs at large spatial or temporal scales. Future areas of study include: (1) migratory connectivity, (2) migratory timing, movements, and their relationship to climate, and (3) movements on wintering grounds.

There are two manufacturers and three tag types that are currently compatible Motus network: Lotek Nanotags, CTT LifeTags, and CTT PowerTags. Motus was created around the use of Lotek tags so nearly the entire network is compatible with their frequency (166.380 MHz) and codeset. CTT uses new technology that involves a different frequency (434 MHz) and codeset from Lotek; therefore, most Motus stations are not 'listening' for CTT tags. However, it is now possible to configure stations to 'listen' for both frequencies. The options for receivers are currently these: Lotek SRX800-D, Sensorgnome, and CTT Sensorstation. Because of recent technological advances, the Western Motus Network is deploying dual stations with antennas that cover both frequencies at each station. All stations will at a minimum use the 166.380 MHz frequency, but installing dual stations is critical for maintaining the continuity of the current Motus array and future-proofing the stations to allow for new technological advances.

How to Get Involved
Please join us! You can help support one of the largest migratory animal conservation science and research initiatives in the world. We welcome all collaborators, whether you are a researcher, land manager, organization, educator, private landowner, or donor. This is an opportunity for outreach, education, and collaboration with people throughout the Americas. Please visit Motus and Cellular Tracking Technologies (CTT) for more information.

You can help us expand the network around the Kern River Valley and surrounding areas by donating to our Motus program:

  • $25 - can pay for 3 months of cellular connectivity (for data uploads) for one of our stations.

  • $100 - can pay for an antenna for a new station

  • $200 - can pay for a CTT node (repeater) - Helps us set up a network of nodes on the Kern River Preserve and nearby riparian forest.

  • $250 - can pay for a transmitter to place a bird to track

  • $400 - can pay for a SensorStation

  • $1000 - can pay for a SensorStation and up to 4 antennas or 4 transmitters

  • $5000 - can pay for an entire Motus station and infrastructure.

To learn more about this initiative, please contact: Mary Whitfield (, 760-378-3345) or (