Cayuga Bird Club Motus Project

Supporting Research on Migratory Birds

Last updated November 13, 2023, by Diane Morton

Motus Wildlife Tracking, developed by Bird Studies Canada, is a method of using radio telemetry to follow the movements of birds and other wildlife. Individual birds or animals are equipped with a tiny radio transmitter (nanotag) that can be detected by specialized radio receivers at different geographic locations. This tracking method contributes to our understanding of migration routes, timing, and stopover habitats for different species, and does not require re-capture of tagged individuals. If a radio-tagged bird flies within a few miles of a receiver, its detection is logged. Data from the network of Motus receivers are transmitted to, allowing automated tracking of hundreds of individuals of many different species simultaneously. This information enables mapping of each tagged individual’s seasonal trajectory and is shared with migration researchers throughout the international Motus network.

The Motus network benefits from having receiving stations at many different geographical points, to allow for more detailed mapping of migration pathways. To see a map of the international Motus network, which has grown steadily, go to  

On October 19, 2019, Cayuga Bird Club installed the first Motus station in southern Central New York, at Myers Park in Lansing NY, filling a gap in the Motus array for this region.

On June 18, 2022, the Cayuga Bird Club installed a second Motus station atop Mount Pleasant, near Cornell's Hartung-Boothroyd Observatory, northeast of Ithaca.  We hope that the higher elevation of the tower on Mount Pleasant will provide a broad detection range for tagged birds that come through their migration.

A closer view of our region, below, shows the locations of our two Cayuga Bird Club receivers in Central New York.

The Cayuga Bird Club has been helped enormously with our Motus project by Bryant Dossman, a graduate student with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology studying bird migration. The Town of Lansing generously provided a location for our first radio tower at Myers Park, on the southeast shore of Cayuga Lake. You may see our Cayuga Bird Club radio tower above one of the pavilions the next time you visit the park. This station was upgraded by Bryant Dossman in July 2021 to enable detection of solar-powered CTT Life-Tags, which are becoming more frequently used in studies of bird migration. 

The new receiver on Mount Pleasant, which Bryant also helped to put together, is solar-powered and equipped to detect signals from both standard  nanotags (166Mhz) and CTT tags (434MHz) for migratory bird studies.

Bryant Dossman adjusts the antennae for our Motus tower at Myers Park

Connecting the new Motus receiver at Mount Pleasant

Myers Point Motus Detections, 2023

More information about each of these detections is provided below. You can find up-to-date detection information for the Myers Park Motus receiver at

Mount Pleasant Motus Detections, 2022-2023


10-9-2023 - Swainson's Thrush:

Swainson's Thrush photo by Suan Yong

A migrating Swainson’s Thrush was detected by the Cayuga Bird Club’s Motus receiver at Myers Park on the evening of October 9, 2023. 

This bird had been radio-tagged on March 28, 2023, on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. The thrush flew north past receivers in northern Costa Rica and Guatemala and was detected at a site at the US-Mexico border in the Lower Rio Grande Valley at the end of April. There were no further detections of the bird during the spring and summer months. There are very few Motus stations in the northern coniferous forests where many Swainson’s Thrushes breed, and it is unknown how far north this bird traveled.

But at approximately 7:30 pm on October 9, the thrush reappeared in the Motus network, when it was detected by our receiver at Myers Park. The bird was next detected in Pennsylvania on October 11, and in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia the following week. There have been no further detections since it passed by the southern tip of the Delmarva peninsula in Virginia on October 16. 

We can hope that the bird will be detected by more stations to the south of us. Will it return to Central America for the winter months?

Our Myers Park receiver has previously detected five other Swainson’s thrushes during their Fall migrations, in 2021 and 2022. The first Swainson’s Thrush detected by our receiver made it as far as Panama, and another to Costa Rica. Each of the five previous thrushes detected at Myers Park had been tagged in late summer near Montreal. This 2023 detection, of a bird tagged last March in Central America, lets us see partial migration paths in both spring and fall for a single individual. 

Swainson’s thrushes migrate long distances, wintering in Central America, the Caribbean  Islands, or far into the Andes Mountains of South America. Migration is a dangerous journey for these birds; Swainson’s Thrushes are especially vulnerable to collisions with communications towers and tall buildings, and account for many of the bird mortalities found at those sites.

Swainson's Thrush, March-October, 2023

5-19-2023, 5-29-2023 - Two Red Knots:

Red Knot at Myers Point, 2013, photo by Jay McGowan

Cayuga Bird Club's Motus station at Myers Point has detected 8 migratory birds so far in 2023. Sometimes it takes a while before the detection is connected with others to show a bird’s flight track. That is the case for two Red Knots and a Magnolia Warbler detected in May by our Myers Point Motus station, which now have migration maps available at

Some Red Knots fly as far as 9000 miles during their migration from South America to their breeding grounds along arctic coastlines and tundra in Canada. One of the Red Knots that we detected at Myers Point flew all the way from Argentina! The bird was tagged on April 19, 2023, at Golfo San Matias on the coast of Argentina, part of a Canadian study of long-distance Red Knot migration. Because there are still very few Motus stations in South America to follow migrating birds, the next detection of the bird following its release was nearly a month later, at Chincoteague VA. The bird was also detected by other stations on Assateague Island that evening. Then on the evening of May 28, the bird was detected by Motus receivers near Philadelphia, followed by our Myers Point station at 1 a.m. May 29, and by Montezuma NWR and Ontario stations the same night. The most recent detection of the bird was at Hilliardton Ontario, north of Algonquin Park, later that day.  It is likely that the bird continued further north for the breeding season. 

The other Red Knot detected by our Myers Point receiver flew by on May 19 at approximately 1:10 a.m. This bird had been tagged May 9 on the coast of South Carolina, moved northward along the coast past two more Motus stations that week, and then began heading northward at a faster rate. The bird was detected at Poplar Island MD (Chesapeake Bay) at approximately 9 p.m. on May 18, and later that night at Myers Point, and at Montezuma NWR on its way north. The last reported detection for the bird was at Eganville, Ontario at 4 a.m. May 19, just 7 hours after its detection at Poplar Island.


The distance this Red Knot traveled in one night, from the Chesapeake Bay to Eganville ON, was more than 470 miles (780 km) in 7 hours. This works out to a speed of approximately 67 mph or 21 meters/second! A recently published study of Red Knot migration by Felicia Sanders’s group in South Carolina found that the average speed of Red Knots during spring migration is 20 meters/second. For more information on Red Knot migration, and how Motus tracking has been used to study it, see Spring migration patterns of red knots in the Southeast United States disentangled using automated telemetry. Sci Rep 13, 11138 (2023).

Red Knots are rarely seen in the Finger Lakes, and if one is spotted, it is usually during its fall migration. (See the accompanying photo by Jay McGowan of an adult Red Knot seen at Myers Point in July, 2013). It is interesting to learn that some Red Knots are flying up Cayuga Lake in the spring on their way north.  Motus tracking of Red Knots will help to identify critical stopover habitats for these and other long-distance shorebird migrants.

5-16-2023 - Magnolia Warbler:

Magnolia Warbler, photo by Sandy Podulka

A Motus detection map has recently become available for a Magnolia Warbler that we detected at Myers Point on May 16. Magnolia Warblers breed in the northeastern US and southern Canada and winter in Central America and the Caribbean. This warbler was tagged in Ohio on May 10, and was detected by other Motus receivers in Ohio and Pennsylvania as it headed northeast. It was detected at Myers Point at 12:30 am on May 16 for just a minute on its way to Montreal and then to the St Lawrence River at the Gaspé Peninsula (May 19). No later detections have been reported. Map: 

Like other warblers, Magnolia Warblers are night migrants. While window collisions are a hazard during migration, Magnolia Warbler populations have remained relatively stable over recent decades.

5-10-2023 -  White-throated Sparrow:

White-throated Sparrow, photo by Phil McNeil

A White-throated Sparrow was detected at our Mount Pleasant Motus station on May 10, 2023, at approximately 11:45 pm EDT. This sparrow had been tagged on February 19 by a Georgia Tech group studying migratory songbirds in the Athens, Georgia area. The tagged sparrow spent two more months at the Athens Botanical garden, with detections there daily until April 21, when it was picked up by a Motus station at Caesar’s Head, South Carolina. Further detections were made in Virginia and central Pennsylvania before our detection on Mount Pleasant.

Ten miles from Mount Pleasant, at our Myers Park Motus station, another White-throated Sparrow was detected 24 hours later. This second sparrow was tagged in southwestern Pennsylvania on May 4. It was not detected at Mount Pleasant, nor was the Georgia-tagged sparrow detected at Myers Park. 

eBird bar charts show that White-throated Sparrows are found in Tompkins county during the winter months, with more birds arriving in late April and early May.  White-throated sparrows breed in northern forests, some going as far as the Hudson Bay Area. In September and October White-throated Sparrows return to our area for the winter or pass through on their way south.

White-throated Sparrows are night migrants, vulnerable to impacts with tall lighted buildings. Their population has declined by more than 90% over the past fifty years, though they remain a species of low conservation concern due to their relative abundance.

White throated Sparrow, Feb-May, 2023

7/10/2023 - Short-billed Dowitcher

Short-billed Dowitcher at Myers Park, July 2023,  photo by Jay McGowan

Birders find a few Short-billed Dowitchers at Myers Point most summers, and that was true again this year. The photo of a Short-billed Dowitcher at Myers Point, above,  was taken by Jay McGowan on July 23, 2023.
A couple of weeks earlier, on July 10, our Motus station at Myers Park detected a radio-tagged Short-billed Dowitcher at approximately 9:30pm. The bird had been tagged in Churchill, Manitoba, on June 26. It remained in near its tagging site until July 9, then rapidly headed southward, detected at two locations in Eastern Ontario and then flying by Lake Shore Marshes WMA, NY, and Myers Point on July 10. The bird continued south through Maryland and was last detected at Cape Charles, Virginia on July 11. This Short-billed Dowitcher flew a distance of more than 1600 miles in two days! 

It will be interesting to learn whether this dowitcher will continue to more southern coastal areas later this fall. A map of its trajectory thus far is shown below.

Short-billed Dowitcher migration July, 2023

2 Bank Swallows, 7/9/2023 and 7/31/23

Bank Swallow, Myers Point, Lansing.  Photo by Jay McGowan

Two Bank Swallows were detected by our Motus receiver at Myers Park during July, 2023.  Both swallows are part of a Canadian Bank Swallow migration study that includes more than 900 radio-tagged birds. The first Bank Swallow that we detected at Myers Park was tagged near Montreal on June 22, detected at Derby Hill Observatory on July 9, and then at Myers Park about five hours later on July 9. No further detections to the south have yet been reported. A map of this bird's migration movements is shown below.

The second Bank Swallow was detected at Myers Park on July 31 and had been tagged June 21st, also near Montreal. That bird was detected at Myers Point on the afternoon of July 31 for approximately half an hour, but has not been detected by other Motus stations thus far.

The Bank Swallow population in Canada has declined by 93% since monitoring began in the 1970s. While there may be multiple contributing factors to this steep decline, it is thought that at least part of the decline might be caused by factors occurring outside of Canada, either during migration or on the wintering grounds. Studies of their migration routes may help to understand whether conservation measures during along their migratory pathways are needed to protect this species.

Bank Swallow migration, June-July 2023

3/20/23 - Horned Lark

Horned Lark, photo by Tracy McLellan

A Horned Lark was detected by our Myers Point Motus receiver on March 20, 2023 at approximately 9:40 am EDT. The bird had been tagged on October 3, 2022 at a site near Taudussac, Quebec. The bird was detected that November heading south through Vermont and Pennsylvania, and then reappeared in March 2023 with our detection at Myers Park and then at Murcrest Farms near Watertown (March 29). It was subsequently detected by two receivers in the Montreal area in April. No further detections have been reported.

Horned Larks are partial migrants, with those in the northern portion of their range heading south for the winter, while birds in the US may migrate very little. Motus tracking can help to better understand distance, routes, and timing of Horned Lark migrations. Horned Larks are not rare, but they are a species in steep decline, with a loss of more than 65% of their population in recent decades.

The Horned Lark was tagged near Taudoussac (white circle at top right) before heading south through Vermont. After detection in Ithaca in March, the bird continued northeast to Quebec.

8/11/2022 - Semipalmated Plover: 

Semipalmated Plover, photo by Jay McGowan

On August 11, 2022, a Semipalmated Plover was detected on its southward flight. This bird had been tagged on Hudson Bay in Manitoba in June. It was next detected on August 11 by Motus stations on the south shore of Lake Ontario and at Montezuma NWR before flying by Mount Pleasant. This plover reached North Carolina on August 13. The most recent detection for this radio-tagged Semipalmated Plover was to the north, at Kent Island, New Brunswick, on September 8. eBird bar charts for Kent Island show that Semipalmated Plovers are common there throughout the fall. It will be interesting to find out where this bird heads next

Semipalmated Plovers breed in the arctic and winter along the east and west coasts of both North and South America. During migration they can be found inland at lake shores, muddy ponds, and wet farm fields.

A map of this Semipalmated Plover's movements is shown below. An animated track can be viewed at at

Fall 2021 and 2022
Motus Detections at Myers Point

Birds detected by Cayuga Bird Club’s Myers Point Motus receiver during Fall migration in 2021 (following upgrade of our receiver) and in 2022 are listed below with dates and locations of their original tag release date.  

Swainson's Thrush, photo by Suan Yong

Swainson's Thrush - Fall 2021 and 2022

Over a three week period in September and October, 2021, our Motus receiver at Myers Point detected three Swainson’s Thrushes on their fall migration. Each of these birds had been tagged in Montreal as part of a study of songbirds migrating through the Grand Parc de l’Ouest in Montreal. One goal of this study is to inspire habitat improvements in local areas around Montreal where migratory birds pause on their southward migration. 

One Swainson’s Thrush detected by our Motus station at Myers Point on September 16 made it to Panama!  This thrush was tagged in Montreal on September 6, detected by two stations north of Syracuse on September 14, and then at Cayuga Bird Club’s Myers Point station on September 16. The thrush was subsequently detected in West Virginia on September 25, in South Carolina on September 26, and on October 16 detected by a station in Panama, at the Panama Sewage Plant. 

The other two 2021 Swainson’s Thrushes were also tagged in Montreal,. One Swainson’s Thrush that flew by Myers point on September 30, 2021 was also detected by stations in Pennsylvania (10/11/2021) and South Carolina (10/14/2021). Another Swainson’s Thrush detected by our receiver on October 9 has had no additional detections reported south of us.

In Fall 2022, two Swainson's Thrushes were detected by our Myers Point receiver. Once of these was detected on September 29 and the other on October 15, 2022. The second Swainson's Thrush was detected by 15 Motus receivers, including one in the Veragua Rainforest of Costa Rica on November 13, 2022 (map below).

Swainson’s Thrushes nest primarily in the Boreal forests of Canada. This species has experienced a population loss of more than 35% since the 1960’s, but is still relatively abundant. However, the nocturnal fall migration of Swanson’s Thrushes is quite hazardous, with high mortality reported due to collisions with windows, communications towers and tall buildings. The Lights Out initiative could help these and other nocturnal migrants to complete their migrations more safely. 

Swainson's Thrush migration, Fall 2022

Swainson's Thrush migration, Fall 2021.

10/5/2021 - Tennessee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler at Myers Park,
photo by Jay McGowan

A Tennessee Warbler, detected by our receiver at Myers Park on October 5, 2021, has been detected in Costa Rica!  This Tennessee Warbler was tagged in Montreal on September 9. The bird was also detected in Florida on October 23 before its detection at a brand new Motus station in the Veragua Rainforest of Costa Rica on November 19. This was  the first bird detected by that station in Costa Rica, which had just been installed that month.

Tennessee Warblers breed in the Boreal Forests of Canada and winter in Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. The species was named by Ornithologist Alexander Wilson who found the bird in Tennessee during its migration. Tennessee Warblers have remained less vulnerable to decline that many other songbird species, perhaps because of their broad use of a variety of habitats.

August, 2020- May, 2021
Motus Detections at Myers Point

Birds detected by Cayuga Bird Club’s Myers Point Motus receiver #5852,
from August 2020 - May 2021 are listed below with dates and locations of their original tag release date.

8-21-2020 - Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk,
photo by Diane Morton

On August 21, 2020, at approximately 7:20 pm, a Common Nighthawk was detected by Cayuga Bird Club’s Motus receiving station at Myers Point. The bird had been tagged on May 10, 2020 as part of a study by the Norris Lab at the University of Guelph, Ontario, to study Common Nighthawk and Eastern Whip-poor-will movements with the hope of gaining insight into why the populations of both species have seriously declined in recent decades. While the focus of the study is on these birds’ movements near their breeding grounds, data on their migratory behavior can also be gleaned from this project. Nighthawks are long-distance migrants; the map of this birds movements show that it went to Colombia in the winter months and back again to Canada for the following summer.

This Common Nighthawk was detected repeatedly during summer 2020 at a site north of Toronto. The bird began its southward journey in August with detection west of Niagara Falls on August 17 and at the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory station on August 18, before being detected by our station at Myers Point on August 21st. This bird was subsequently detected in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, and then in Florida on September 7 and January 19. The next detection was at a site southwest of Bogota, Colombia, on January 26; the bird was detected multiple times at this location until February 25. After that, the next detection was on March 5, in Nova Scotia. The bird was further detected in Nova Scotia and Maine during the spring months and spend much of the summer in Ontario near the site of its tagging the previous year. The last reported detection was on July 20, 2021.  

A map of Motus detections this Common Nighthawk's movements  is shown below. (Very short duration detections, which are likely spurious, have been filtered out in the map below.) 

Common Nighthawk, May 2020-July 2021.

10-7-2020 - Blackpoll Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler, photo by Suan Yong

On October 7, 2020, at approximately 7:40 pm, our Cayuga Bird Club Motus receiver at Myers Point detected a Blackpoll Warbler on its southward migration. This bird had been radio-tagged two weeks earlier, on September 21st, at Braddock Bay Bird Observatory (BBBO) on the south shore of Lake Ontario. One of eighteen Blackpoll warblers tagged at BBBO this fall, this Blackpoll spent five days near the observatory before it departed to pass later by Myers Point. No additional detections further south have been reported.

Blackpoll Warblers are very long-distance migrants, flying up to 12,400 miles roundtrip each year between their nesting areas in northern Boreal forests to wintering grounds as far as the Amazon Basin of South America. While their spring migration is primarily overland, their fall migration can include a four-day trans-oceanic flight. 

Blackpolls are one of the fastest declining songbirds in North America. Further studies of their migration routes will help to identify important areas to protect for their successful conservation.

Here is more from one recent study using geolocators to follow Blackpoll migration: 

A Boreal Songbird's 20,000 km Migration Across North America and the Atlantic Ocean. DeLuca, et al., Ecological Society of America, 2019.

10-25-2020 - White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow, photo by Phil McNeil

A White-throated Sparrow was detected at Myers Point on October 24, 2020 at approximately 10:30 pm EDT (October 25 03:30 UTC). White-throated sparrows, along with a number of other species, were tagged at Mary’s Point, New Brunswick for studies of migration and stopover ecology of migratory songbirds and bats. This White throated Sparrow headed west, and was detected at Upper and Lower Lakes WMA, New York, before it headed south toward Cayuga Lake. Detections further south have not yet been reported.

10-2020 - Rusty Blackbirds

Rusty Blackbird,
photo by Suan Yong

Two Rusty Blackbirds were detected within a few days of one another at Myers Point in late October. Both birds had been tagged on October 2 at L’Observatoire d’Oiseaux de Tadoussac, Quebec (, for a study of Rusty Blackbird fall migration routes and migratory connectivity. We detected one Rusty Blackbird at Myers Point on October 25 at approximately 2:20 am EDT and a second Rusty Blackbird on October 31 at 10:30 am EDT. Though these blackbirds had departed Tadoussac on different dates, their migratory paths are quite similar. (Compare their maps, below.) These birds were most recently detected by receivers in Northern Maryland located 27 miles apart from one another. The Maryland detections occurred on November 12 and November 6.

11-3-2020 - American Pipit

American Pipit at Myers Park, photo by Suan Yong

An American Pipit was detected at Myers Point on November 3, 2020, at approximately 11:00 am. This pipit had been tagged at Tadoussac, Quebec, on September 23. Prior to its detection at Myers Point, the bird was detected near Quebec City on October 10 and at Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area northwest of Syracuse on October 30.

American Pipits are medium-distance migrants, breeding in northern or mountainous regions of North America, and wintering in the southern United States, Mexico, or Central America. American Pipits are relatively common birds, but their population has fallen by as much as 30% since 1970. Changes to their arctic and alpine breeding habitats brought about by climate change are a concern for this species.

5-25-2021 - Ovenbird

Ovenbird, photo by Diane Morton

An Ovenbird, tagged on May 21, 2021 in Ohio on the southeastern shore of Lake Erie, flew north to Ontario, but changed direction and was then detected three days later by our Motus receiver at Myers Point at  approximately 9:20 pm EST, May 24, 2021.  The bird headed North,  detected by receivers near Kingston Ontario the following day. It continued on a zigzag trajectory further north, with the last reported detection for this tagged Ovenbird on May 31, at a station on Georgian Bay, Lake Huron.

5-29-2021 - Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone at Myers Park, photo by Barbara Clise

A migrating Ruddy Turnstone flew by our receiver on May 29, 2021 at approximately 12:50 pm EDT. This bird had been tagged just two days earlier on the southeastern coast of South Carolina, and was detected at eight other Motus stations as it flew north. In just 26 1/2 hours, this Ruddy Turnstone flew from Port Royal, SC (7:45 pm EDT, 5/28) to Napanee, Ontario (10:20 pm EDT, 5/29) a distance of over 900 miles! This is the first shorebird detection for our Motus station.

Ruddy Turnstones are long-distance migrants that nest in the arctic tundra. Those that breed in northern Canada spend their winters along the coastlines of both North America and South America. During migration, they stop along coastal beaches and shorelines of fresh water lakes, feeding on insects and small crustaceans. 

Ruddy Turnstones have been sighted at Myers Point and reported to eBird in previous years during their spring migration. The photo of the Ruddy Turnstone above was taken by Barbara Clise on May 30, 2020, at Myers Point, almost exactly a year prior to our Motus receiver’s Ruddy Turnstone detection in 2021.

Our First Detection:
11/8/2019 - American Woodcock

American Woodcock, photo by Suan Yong

The first bird that our Motus receiver at Myers Park detected was a migrating American Woodcock, on November 7, 2019, just three weeks after our receiver's installation. From the webpage for this receiver (#5852), click on “PARC#147.9.7 M.33857” tag deployment to learn more. This woodcock had been tagged with a Lotek transmitter on 4-27-2019, near Cleveland, Ohio, as part of a Powdermill Nature Reserve project. This tag was detected by 17 Motus receivers over the course of seven months.

Looking at the detections on “a map” (not “a timeline”), you can see the locations of these detections, resulting in a map of the bird’s migratory movements:

The woodcock migrated north from Ohio to Ontario in April and May and then disappeared from the Motus detection array for the summer. The bird then reappeared November 1 near a receiver north of Kingston, Ontario. This woodcock passed by Myers Point at approximately 8:45 pm EST, 11-7-19. This was just 3 hours after detections at Wolfe Island and Amherst Island receivers, 150 miles north of us. This bird may have been flying at speeds of over 40 mph! The woodcock was then detected 33 hours later, 5:30 am EST 11-9-19, at Mt Pisgah, North Carolina, over 700 miles southwest of us. 

We encourage you to further explore Cayuga Bird Club’s Motus detections at (Myers Park, 2019-May 2021)

New detections after our July 2021 receiver upgrade at Myers Park are being recorded at

Detections from our new station at Mount Pleasant are being recorded here:

If you have questions about this project, contact Diane Morton at DianeGMorton at gmail dot com.