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Backpacks for Birds

Making It Grow Radio Minute
SC Public Radio

To discover where prothonotary warblers spend their winters, Beidler staff devised an ingenious system. Several birds, weighing about half an ounce, have been fitted with tiny backpacks that record information about where they go. The devices don’t transmit coordinates, they would be too heavy. This system is dependent on having some of the birds, with their site fidelity, successfully making the trip south and returning to the place of their birth. Then they’re trapped, the backpacks removed, and information retrieved. The birds use mangrove swamps in Central and South America as their winter resting grounds, and destruction of those areas is a grave threat to their existence. With Project Protho, Audubon and other groups study migration patterns in an attempt to protect these birds not only in their North American breeding grounds but in their winter habitat as well.

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.