Thursday, April 9, 2009

Marbled Godwit Tracking Now Online

From the beach to your computer screen: You can follow the travels of rare marbled godwits as they fly across the country, bound for destinations known – at least for now – only to them.

As part of a continent-wide project, small transmitters were attached to godwits when they were banded on Little St. Simons Island in December. Biologists hope that data from the transmitters will help them determine where the godwits migrate and nest, and what their movements are throughout winter, along with other general location data.

The marbled godwit is a large migratory shorebird that nests in the grasslands of the Plains states and central Canada, as well as in Alaska and, in small numbers, eastern Canada. Godwits winter on the West, Gulf and East coast, including in Georgia. The birds stay here until late April or early May, with a few juveniles remaining throughout the summer. The marbled godwit is as a high-priority species in the State Wildlife Action Plan, a comprehensive strategy that guides Georgia Wildlife Resources and state Department of Natural Resources efforts to conserve biological diversity.

Marbled godwits are in decline, at least in part due to habitat loss, and listed by the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan as a high-priority species. Understanding the connections between winter habitats, nesting areas and migration stops for the various populations is vital to managing habitat for the species. It’s also the focus of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service project encompassing North America.

The Wildlife Resources Division has been banding marbled godwits since 2001. But researchers began the godwit transmitter project in Georgia last fall, thanks to a grant from The Environmental Resources Network, or TERN, the nonprofit advocacy group for Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section.

The travels of the satellite-packing godwits can be followed at www.seaturtle.org (click “Satellite Tracking,” then “Biogeography of Marbled Godwit in North America” on the left-hand side of the page).

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