Recent updates from Motus

In addition to the major milestones posted below, users interested in latest progress regarding Motus should considering signing up to the Motus discussion group.

December 2021 Web Update: Introducing Motus Stations and more!

New updates to the Motus metadata management system have been introduced. The changes are most important for project managers who are responsible for maintaining project information and station metadata, and include a simplification of Motus station/receiver management, new project citation tools, data access logging, and more. This update is an important update to support changes to Explore Data tools that will be introduced in the New Year.

This update includes:

  1. “Receiver” management is now “station” management.
    This new organization improves the user experience for both data management and exploration interfaces. Read more about Station Management here

  2. Project citations
    Projects can now create a custom citation for their project to ensure proper project acknowledgement wherever data from the project may be viewed or used. Read more about Citations here

  3. Project Institutions
    Projects can now identify lead or partnership institutions. Read more about Institutions here

  4. Data access management and tracking
    Projects can now specify their desired data access levels. There is also a new tool that logs each time your data is accessed via the R Package. Read more about Data Access here
June 2021 Strategic Development – Motus Fest 2021!

Part one in the strategic development of Motus for the next decade of tracking wildlife. This event has already occured, but you can still view a recording below:

Motus Fest 2021

August 2020 Motus Videos – NAOC2020 Round Table and Motus en español

We have two new videos available on our Motus YouTube Channel!

A recorded roundtable discussion on the Motus Wildlife Tracking System during the North American Ornithological Conference 2020.

Sistema de seguimiento de vida silvestre Motus

June 2020 Motus Network Update – Check your stations!

Dear Motus Collaborators,

The state of affairs have changed considerably since our last update and many projects are already underway, while others have been postponed or cancelled. At this time, it’s important to remain mindful of the fact this is a collaborative network and that researchers across the globe rely on third-party stations to be operational. Unfortunately, the patchwork of travel restrictions across different jurisdictions has made it difficult if not impossible for some researchers to check and maintain their equipment. In other cases, projects that are not running may not install or check stations as a result. While we understand there are many challenges at this time, we want to encourage collaborators to maintain their stations for the sake of other researchers where safety and regulation allows.

If you have stations, please download your spring data and ensure everything is operational for the fall – some migrants will be starting to move very soon.

If you have stations but not enough resources to check or maintain them, or have any other problems with your stations, there may be a way for us or others to help so please contact us.

Please ensure your receiver and tag deployment information is correct and complete by visiting the Manage Receivers page for your project.

For more information please visit our resources section or get in touch.

Take care and stay safe.

The Motus Team

April 2020 COVID-19 Update

Firstly, we certainly hope that everyone is faring well and we wish everyone the best of health and strength in these trying times.

The escalating global pandemic has caused many, if not most, projects slated for this spring to postpone or cancel, and it would not be surprising if disruptions extended through summer for many. While this is extremely unfortunate, we’re all in this together and at least most of the birds, bats, and bugs will be there next spring.

We wanted to provide you with some important information about the status of the system while restrictions are in place, and guidance on a number of issues that may arise due to delayed projects, storing tags, station uptime, etc.

Research software platform performance

All Motus servers and processes are expected to operate as normal and staff are working from home to the best of their ability. While we don’t expect any major performance issues, it may take us longer to respond to inquiries, or to troubleshoot any issues.

Active tags are still circulating:

Regardless of project cancellations, it’s important to know that there are still many animals with active tags currently in the system– this includes long-lasting tags deployed last year, anything tagged on the wintering grounds, and anything wearing solar tags. While we certainly do not encourage anyone to go against any health or travel restrictions in your region, for those that can, or are considering limited station maintenance or travel, there is reason to ensure any easy, or strategic stations, are operating to the best of our ability. The health and safety of everyone involved and our communities should always come first.

Reduced station coverage

For those with tags in the system this spring, it’s fair to assume that the number of active stations in the network will be reduced as critical spring checks and setup windows are being postponed, slowed, or cancelled. This will be reflected in station metadata when that is updated, but you may wish to get in touch with various regional coordinators for updates on stations of interest. For example, critical station maintenance to the stations in Panama early this spring had to be cancelled. There are very likely similar regional implications across the network. We’re developing a tool that should be ready soon which highlights the frequency at which each station is reporting data. An increasing number of stations are reporting in real-time online which drastically increases the reliability of the network.

Please ensure that all station metadata is up to date.

Tag registration and start dates

IMPORTANT- if you have recently registered tags with pre-set start date that will not be deployed, please change those dates or let us know so we can change them.

If you have tags that aren’t registered, please do so if you’re able. Registration with the system is the only reasonable way that we can track and avoid potential duplication of codes. This is unlikely to be an issue because there are ample codes available, but we want to do everything to ensure that it isn’t an issue. Note that CTT tags are automatically registered with Motus.

2020 Tag Registration and Fee

If there is any concern over fees being applied to tags that will not be deployed this year, we will be basing fees for tags registered in 2020 solely on when they were deployed, not simply because/when they are registered. Any concern over the timing or assessment of fees is no reason to delay registering your tags – we are happy to work around any payment schedule required for your organization/project.

Please also recall the importance of ensuring that metadata for any registered tags is complete and accurate. For undeployed tags or tags going into storage, please ensure that anticipated start date, actual start dates, and species fields are not populated. Tags that are registered in 2020, but will never be used for one reason or another, can later be marked as deprecated and will not be charged for.

Storing tags (most applicable for battery-powered tags)

There was a little recent chatter about this on the list-serve. Here is the best available guidance in consultation with the manufacturers.

  1. Upon receipt, it is important to turn tags on, inspect their performance, and ideally register them with Motus immediately after receiving them from the manufacturer. After checking, and before storing, it’s important to verify that the transmitters have been deactivated if applicable!
  2. Tags are best kept in static free packaging and a closed box from the manufacturer to avoid exposure to light. Exposure to light during storage can increase energy consumption, and reduce battery and tag life. Practice physical distancing of tags – avoid storing transmitters in direct contact with other transmitters or on metallic surfaces.
  3. Store transmitters in a relatively cool (10-20°C), dry and well-ventilated area. In places that are naturally hot and humid, a fridge >=~4C, but not colder may be OK. Silica packets can help to keep boxes dry in this scenario. Fridges are not well ventilated and condensation could interfere with tag electronics over time. Do not store tags in a freezer.

Station battery storage

If you are unable to setup stations, it’s important to maintain your batteries on a trickle charge, or charge them every few months to maintain their performance. Trickle chargers are readily available online, and most advanced deep cycle battery chargers will naturally maintain batteries if left connected. Alternatively, many local battery suppliers may store and maintain batteries for you. The vast majority of station issues across the network are power related – happy batteries = happy data.

Disrupted graduate work

If changes have seriously impacted anyone’s planned graduate work, the Motus database is absolutely bursting with data to be analyzed and there are numerous PI’s willing to help! It’s likely that unused data on your very species is lying in wait. To explore which data is available visit: . Feel free to post to this group asking for suggestions or potential projects, or contact Motus to discuss.

Looking forward to hopefully being able to ramp things back up again in the fall.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

December 2019

Birds Canada and The National Audubon Society are looking to hire a joint Movement Ecologist.

Birds Canada and The National Audubon Society are committed to the protection of birds and the places they need throughout their full annual cycle. The science of avian migration serves as the foundation of this vision: it not only tells us where we should invest our limited time, resources and energies, but it also communicates the story of migration to engage more people in conservation action.

To this end, Birds Canada and The National Audubon Society are partnering to synthesize animal movement data from the Motus Wildlife Tracking System, and other tracking technologies to reveal seasonal movements, behaviors, and migration patterns across the Western Hemisphere and focus scientific results to reveal actionable strategic conservation priorities. The first step in this important partnership is the hiring of a Movement Ecologist will work closely with the Audubon’s Migratory Bird Initiative and Conservation Science teams and the Migration Ecology and Data Science and Technology teams at Birds Canada to promote effective conservation outcomes through movement and migration ecology research, with a focus on various tracking data sources, particularly data from the Motus Wildlife Tracking System. S/he will lead efforts to model migratory bird movement at hemispheric scales; build partnerships with academic, agency and conservation organization scientists studying bird migration and movement ecology; and provide outputs to support the missions and projects of Birds Canada and Audubon.

Primary responsibilities will include:

  • Develop and apply advanced Bayesian, Markovian, frequentist, and/or machine-learning approaches to quantitative analyses of automated telemetry (Motus), geolocator, GPS, and other tracking data;
  • Develop analyses to link movement to habitat use, accounting for spatial error and autocorrelation;
  • Examine synergies between technology types, opportunities and methods for combining tracking information into movement models, conservation decision-support tools, and/or collaborate on those fronts where appropriate;
  • Integrate tracking and threat data to identify key areas for conservation;
  • Automate data extractions and processes for vetting of data;
  • Develop tools to extract key summary statistics for all available species from Motus and other tracking data, such as: flight speeds, departure/arrival times, activity patterns, spatial organization (habitat use), stopover durations by latitude/location, migration routes/pathways, and weather/climate variables;
  • Identify opportunities to fill key knowledge gaps for Audubon and Birds Canada priority species, habitats, flyways based on migratory tracking information;
  • Collaborate with diverse group of NAS and Birds Canada staff and international migratory bird scientists and institutions to synthesize and analyze movement data; Co-supervise, or collaborate with undergrads, grad students, postdocs on projects that fulfill the above;
  • Identify opportunities and collaborate or lead on funding proposals and peer-reviewed publications; public visualization and R-based tool kits to promote use and reuse of data by researchers and decision makers;
  • Travel up to 4 times per year to Audubon or Birds Canada offices, and/or attend additional meetings or conferences.

Qualifications and Experience:


  • Ph.D. in biology, ecology, spatial ecology, conservation-related field or computer science with an interest in biology required; 2-3 years of experience preferred;
  • Demonstrated ability to clearly frame research questions, design studies, and implement analyses;
  • Proven ability to design, manage and analyse large databases;
  • Proficiency in quantitative analysis and modelling of animal movement, including generalized linear models, hierarchical models in frequentist and Bayesian frameworks, capture-recapture methods, and state-space models;
  • Demonstrated expertise with a wide range of computer software, including R, and relational databases (e.g. Access and SQL databases);
  • Experience with advanced programming skills (e.g., developing R packages, Java, C++).
  • Proficiency in GIS, particularly with ArcGIS products;
  • Field research experience with different types of animal tracking technologies and data, including automated radio telemetry (Motus), strongly desired;
  • Working knowledge and broad understanding of migration ecology and related conservation issues; and
  • High level of organization, initiative, interpersonal and oral and written communication skills.


  • Experience with remote sensing products;
  • Experience with cloud computing and processing big data;
  • Familiarity with threats to migratory birds;
  • Proven ability to produce high-quality scientific papers or reports;
  • Demonstrated ability and strong interest in collaborating with other scientists and stakeholders; and
  • A self-starter, one who can think creatively about connections between birds, places, and people.


Two years, with the potential for renewal.

To Apply:

Canadian Applicants

Applicants should send cover letter and curriculum vitae to Stuart Mackenzie (

Questions about the position should be directed to Mr. Mackenzie.

U.S. Applicants

Apply through the National Audubon Society Job portal ( To be considered for the position, please submit a cover letter and curriculum vitae with your application.

Questions about the position should be directed to Dr. Jill Deppe (

Competitive salary and benefits package will be awarded based on the successful candidates experience and location of employment (Canada or US).

October 2019 Motus Website and R Package Update:

We are pleased to inform you that we have recently released new updates to the Motus website and R package. These updates primarily support the integration of Cellular Tracking Technologies (CTT) line of SensorStations & nodes, LifeTags and PowerTags. More details about CTT integration are available below.

We have also made a number of improvements to the R package which are summarized here Additional new features to the interface and website, and bug fixes are also summarized below.

Important for R package users: Because of the nature of the changes, everyone will be required to download the latest version of the Motus R package (v3) in order to access your Motus data, and you will also be required to download a complete new copy of the .motus file for your projects or receivers.

Some users have experienced issues while trying to update to the latest Motus R version. The following steps should fix those problems:

  1. Delete the old package
    > remove.packages(c(“motus”))
  2. Install the new package
    > install_github(“motusWTS/motus@master”)
  3. During installation, you may need to update other packages that already exist on your computer which should happen automatically, but sometimes there’s an error when R doesn’t have the correct permission to delete the old packages. In this case, you will need to manually delete or rename the package folder(s) where ever you store your libraries (use .libPaths() to find out where).
  4. When prompted, rename the old local database (your ‘.motus’ file).
    > The old file is no longer compatible with the latest version.

Please contact us if you run into any other issues along the way.

 Additional new website and interface features and bug fixes:

  • R Package changes are tracked here
    • A new activity table that can be used to generate filters based on the radio activity at a station to help identify false detections was released in V.2. (August 2019).
    • A corrected timestamp (tsCorrected) in the alltags view from receiver deployments that used non-UTC time.
    • Can have multiple sessions per username in R package
  • Additional validations and fields on the metadata management page.
  • Allow receiver and tag deployment start/end dates to be edited at any time.
  • Disallow setting a species on a test tag deployment.
  • New entry on project page: Identify which institution invoices should be directed?
  • New on Lotek receiver deployment pages: specify UTC offset.
  • Receiver deployments: handle duplicate port numbers.
  • Receiver deployments: handle CTT serial numbers
  • CTT receiver and tag registration, APIs for connections to CTT servers
  • Admin interface for administrators to browse the files in CTT’s AWS storage and our NAS
  • Automatic file transfer to and from CTT’s AWS storage
  • API for returning deprecated batches
  • Support for batch version numbers
  • Switch from sg_ to det_ tables
  • Create fewer new ProjInfo objects
  • Improved handling of job processes which are interrupted
  • Many improvements to logs produced by background processes
  • Increase minimum # of database connections in the pool from 3 to 15
  • Changes to filters in detection summaries (now handled when summaries are generated)
  • API for SGData activity query
  • Performance improvements in ComputeTracks
  • Support for batch updates in Database
  • Access all session and application attributes through Attributes class
  • Miscellaneous bug fixes
  • Miscellaneous cleanup suggested by static analysis
October 2019 Cellular Tracking Technologies Integration:

In order to strengthen the range of innovative technology and data management options available for collaborators to use with Motus, Bird Studies Canada has been working in partnership with Cellular Tracking Technologies (CTT) to integrate their line of LifeTag™ and PowerTag™, and receivers, SensorStations™, into the Motus network. Funding for this work was provided by one of the system’s largest supporters, CANARIE (a non-profit corporation that strengthens Canadian leadership in science and technology by delivering digital infrastructure that supports world-class research and innovation), and substantial investment by CTT.

Lotek Wireless remains an important partner, and we’re continuing to work with them to improve the integration of their technology with the system. We do not view these technologies as competitive, rather complementary. Together, they provide Motus collaborators with a robust range of tools and possibilities to fuel research and conservation science well into the future.

CTT’s tags are advanced variants of tags originally designed and tested extensively by Dr. David Winkler and the TABER team at Cornell University and operate on 434 MHz. There are a number of important operational differences between these tags compared to the widely used Lotek Nanotags© that currently operate on 150.1, 151.5, and 166.38 Mhz, but fundamentally the data is similar. The most notable difference is that they have millions of unique ID’s compared to thousands available with Nanotags.  There are also fundamental differences in how the tags are coded which makes data management easier. While the tags differ somewhat in functionality, shape and design, in most cases the principles of harness and attachment protocols are identical, weights of the tag options are generally comparable, and tests and projects to date have worked exceptionally well.

CTT’s SensorStation receivers are a custom hybrid between the open-source Sensorgnome used by most Motus collaborators, and CTT’s own receiver that listens for CTT tags. These receivers can detect Lotek Nanotags© and CTT tags.  Sensorgnomes operating on Raspberry Pi computers throughout the network can also be modified to listen for both types of tags with the use of a radio dongle listening for CTT signals. An updated software update to accommodate this will be available shortly. Lotek receivers only detect Nanotags. The distribution of stations is still dominated by those listening for Nanotags, but the number of stations listening for CTT tags and dual-mode stations listening for both Nanotags and CTT tags is expanding. You can view the current locations of stations monitoring various frequencies using our receiver map.

Data from all receivers and all tag types are centralized and housed in the Motus database at the Bird Studies Canada National Data Centre, and data from all receiver types and tags are available to collaborators through the Motus web portals and R package/book.

We’ll continue to update content and instructions on the Motus website, and will post any updates to the Motus discussion group. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

December 2018
Integration of Celluar Tracking Technologies Lifetags ™

Motus recently received funding from CANARIE’s Research Software Program to support the integration of Cellular Tracking Technologies LifeTags ™ into Motus. A summary is available here, and more details will be announced as they become available.

September 2018
IOC, Vancouver

At the recent International Ornithological Congress Vancouver, cooperators presented 24 oral presentations or posters featuring research using Motus. A summary of these abstracts is available here.

July 2018
Motus Workshop Oct 5th-7th, 2018 – Powdermill Nature Reserve

Powdermill Nature reserve will host a second Motus workshop from October 5th – 7th

Click here to register and view more information, or contact us.

March 2018
Motus used to study full life cycle of the critically endangered Kirtland’s Warbler

See Audubon article here and ace-eco paper here

February 2, 2018
New data download procedure and website features

We are pleased to inform you that we have recently released new data access features and significant updates to the Motus website:

A notification centre is now available for each project to help ensure all aspects of your project metadata is complete and accurate. **Incomplete metadata may result in incomplete detection files.** Please click on the “Data Issues” link on your Manage Project page to view and correct any outstanding issues.

Data downloads are now available by project or receiver directly through a new motus R package. Data will be available to download through this feature in real time, allowing you to update your .motus files as new data is available. Data will no longer be available through static files except in special circumstances. Detailed instructions on how to install this package, download your data, filter potential false positives, and start exploring are available in the updated Motus R Book.

A new Track Search tool allows you to view animated tracks of all Motus tags and summaries from each station, easily filtered by project or species.

We hope these tools will act as useful resources for your project. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, or notice any issues with these new tools.

Happy exploring.

The Motus Crew

January 15, 2018
Tag Detection Data Update

Motus detection data files have been updated on your respective project pages at which should include all data uploaded since September, with a few exceptions. We are working through various minor bugs for some batches which will be updated as they become available. Instructions on accessing your data are available in the Motus R Book.

Please let us know if you run into any problems, or if there appears to be any data missing from your files.

On behalf of the Motus Team.

September 18, 2017
Tag Detection Data Now Available

We are very pleased to announce that tag detection data are now available for download from the Motus web site!

Login to your account, visit the download page, select project, and look for the Tag detections link.

Data are provided as a SQLite file (extension .motus), which can be used in R. To help you navigate this, we created an online book that explains how you can load and use your data using R. The book will be expanded as new tools, R functions and examples become available. In the near future you will be able to create and update your own files directly from the Motus server within the R package (currently being developed).

The processing is now entirely automated and will deal with new receiver files as they are submitted. New files submitted will be added to the processing queue, and any detections of your tags will be added automatically to your project’s SQLite file available for download. Please note that not all of the receiver files have yet been processed. We’ll soon provide a status page on the Motus web site so you can see the processing status of each receiver.

We encourage you to scrutinize your data carefully for inconsistencies (e.g., false positive detections) or omissions (e.g., registered tags that don’t have associated detections data). Future updates to the Motus R book will provide instructions to help you filter and check your data. Recall that the data processing relies heavily on complete and accurate tag and receiver metadata, so please ensure your metadata are complete and up to date. Missing or incorrect metadata can result in missing detections for your and other projects. If you detect problems with your data, please contact with a carefully documented record of the issue(s). Please include enough detail that someone unfamiliar with your data can understand and reproduce your issue.

September 12, 2017
Motus Data Access Update

The following is an update to our note on 21 August (below). We are pleased to report that all of our automated processes are up and running, and are performing well. Data processing has been underway for several days and about half of all back-logged receivers have been completed.

We are currently populating “static files” for each project that will include all available data to date, which you will be able to download from your project page at starting 18 September. We will post an update to this list and contact project PI’s when these files are ready, along with instructions on how to access your data. We will continue to renew these files continuously as new data becomes available, and will notify everyone when all the receivers have been processed. Until all receivers have been processed, data for your project might be incomplete. Nevertheless, this is an excellent opportunity to begin working with your data.

Please note that the data processing relies heavily on complete and accurate tag and receiver metadata, so please ensure your metadata are complete and up to date. Missing or incorrect metadata can result in missing detections for your and other projects.

We apologize for the delay and thank you for your patience. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

August 21, 2017
An update on data processing

Over the past year, we have been working on computer programming intended to process most aspects of Motus data automatically. When completed, this will allow for rapid data retrieval by researchers, and support continued growth of the Motus network. This transition has taken longer than we anticipated, and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.

We are now pleased report that we have been making excellent progress with programming and testing. As a result, we anticipate that your data will be available to you in early September. We will provide instructions soon on how you will be able to access and use your data through a Motus R package.

We will post another update as soon as the process is completed. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

We thank you for your patience and understanding as we complete the automation process which is necessary for an efficient and effective system.

The Motus team

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