Video: How Do Scientists Map a Songbird's Migration?

Where do Golden-winged and Cerulean Warblers go during their annual migration? Using innovative new technology, a collaboration among multiple universities is seeking to answer this question.

Watch this video to learn more about how researchers deploy small, lightweight devices called geolocators to map the migration of these tiny songbirds. Their findings will then allow conservationists to more strategically protect and manage habitat across the birds' full annual life cycle: along their migratory route, on their wintering grounds, and at their breeding sites.

"If we're going to bring back the birds, we need to know what those birds really need," says Jeff Larkin, American Bird Conservancy's Eastern Forest Habitat Coordinator and a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), one of the institutions participating in the project. ABC partners with IUP in this endeavor.

"Where do they go? How do breeding and wintering populations connect? Where are important migratory stopover areas?"

After synthesizing their findings, scientists can then provide on-the-ground partners with management guidelines or conservation recommendations that will help the birds most.

The Golden-winged Warbler Geolocation Study is a collaboration of the University of Minnesota, University of Toledo, University of Tennessee, West Virginia University, and IUP. The Cerulean Warbler Geolocation Study is a collaboration of the University of Tennessee, Arkansas State University, IUP, and the USDA Forest Service – Northern Research Station.

Critical funding support for both projects was provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Science Foundation.


Aditi DesaiAditi Desai is American Bird Conservancy's Assistant Director of Communications and Senior Producer. She spent six days this spring with Jeff Larkin and other biologists braving the wilds of Pennsylvania to learn about warblers, migration, and advancing science through the use of technology. She also got to hold her first Golden-winged Warbler.