Texting while Flying? No Problem!

NYC Audubon’s Susan Elbin and colleagues Nellie Tsipoura and John Brzorad share an exciting new partnership project:


Great Egret "Clare" with Her Transmitter © NYC Audubon

Great Egret "Clare" with Her Transmitter © NYC Audubon

A new era of technology has been added to the NYC Audubon/NJ Audubon Harbor Herons foraging surveys. For the past several years, dedicated citizen science volunteers have spent hundreds of hours collecting data on Harbor Heron foraging locations in New York City and NJ. Now two of our birds are part of a larger study being done by scientists at Lenoir-Rhyne University (Dr. John Brzorad), Friends University (Dr. Alan Maccarone), and NJ Audubon (Nellie Tsipoura). (Note: John and Al did some of the original Harbor Herons surveys in the mid-1980s).


On June 25 and 26, two adult great egrets were captured at Wolf’s Pond, Staten Island, and fitted with solar-powered GPS/GSM (Global Positioning System/Global System for Mobiles) transmitters. The birds’ transmitters send text messages indicating their location, which are then displayed on virtual maps at Movebank.org. The two birds, Clare and Edward, have been “adopted” by local classrooms on Staten Island (Mrs. Theresa Kutza, New Dorp High School and Mrs. Mary Lee, St. Clare’s School) and by citizen scientist volunteers. Clare is definitely part of our breeding population:  She frequently sends messages from Hoffman Island. Edward spends his time on the Jersey side of the river, but just at press-time, has also visited Hoffman. You can see for yourself what Clare and Edward have been up to by clicking here.  (If you click on either “Clare” or “Edward” on the left-hand side, the name will turn blue, and the bird’s flight path will appear on the map. Zoom out to see the entire area the birds have traveled. Note that due to a technical glitch, at the moment both birds are labeled as great blue herons.)

This work was funded by the US Forest Service, the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, and private donations to NJ Audubon, and done in cooperation with the New Jersey Audubon Society, New York City Audubon, and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.





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