Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fascinating Tundra Swan Migration Project

One recent evening, while idly browsing the internet, we discovered the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Alaska Science Center project that has been tracking 50 tundra swans from several populations in Alaska, following their fall migration. In Google Earth, linked from the website, you can see where each swan, fitted with a satellite transmitter, was on a particular date, and when individual geese passed through the upper Mississippi. There are two very different migration patterns. Swans from the Arctic coast of Alaska headed southeast through central Canada and the upper Midwest, and most of this so-called Eastern population of swans are now in the Chesapeake Bay area of the east coast. The Western populations based in western Alaska came through the western states to northern California. To be able to follow individual birds as they cross a continent is truly a fascinating use of satellite technology.

A fact sheet about the tundra swans that pass through the upper Mississippi is available from the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center of the USGS in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

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