In the summer of 2022, the Beaverhill Bird Observatory finished setting up the 4th Motus tower to be established in Alberta. Motus is a wildlife tracking system that uses small radio transmitter tags, which will ping off any Motus tower in a 15 km radius once the tag is activated. 

In the fall of 2023, the Beaverhill Bird Observatory deployed 50 of these radio tags on Northern Saw-whet Owls. While banding of Northern Saw-whet Owls during migration is commonplace across North America, much is still unknown about the migratory habits of the species. Most recoveries of Northern Saw-whet Owls banded at the BBO come from stations to the east of ours, suggesting a west to east migratory route for this species. However, there are far more banding stations to the east of BBO than to the south, meaning owls travelling to the east have a better chance of being detected and are not necessarily more frequent. Early results from the Motus tags deployed in fall 2023 suggest a southern trajectory is more typical of the migration of Northern Saw-whet Owls. 

Our chair of the board, Geoff Holroyd, creates regular updates summarizing the movements of the tagged owls as more and more detections occur. These updates are available below if you are interested in seeing where our tagged owls have travelled to!

Other birds detected by the BBO Motus receiver include the following:

  • 3 White-throated Sparrows originally tagged near Prince George, BC
  • 1 Swainson's Thrush originally tagged near Cincinatti, Ohio
  • 25 Bank Swallows originally tagged near Fairbanks, Alaska

To view all birds detected by the BBO Motus tower, check out the BBO's Motus dashboard page!

To support the BBO's Motus research, consider donating to the program through our CanadaHelps campaign!

Additionally, more tower coverage is needed in Alberta! Contact us at if you are interested in setting up a MOTUS tower.