Tailing a Thrush

Photo: Point Blue

By Joe Eaton

Researchers like Point Blue Conservation Science ecologist Tom Gardali have equipped Swainson’s thrushes, weighing just over an ounce, with tiny, one-gram GPS tags. If recovered, the tag shows the thrush’s exact winter destination, information vital to border-crossing conservation efforts. “You only get a few readings,” says Gardali, “and you still need to get the tag back. But GPS goes to a spot on the map. This is Holy Grail stuff.”  Sierra/Cascade thrushes were presumed to migrate to Mexico like their coastal cousins. When researchers included thrushes from Mount Lassen and Lake Tahoe in their GPS tracking, they learned otherwise. “The mountain birds are going from Mexico to Panama, possibly as far as Columbia.”

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