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Fort McMurray Nighthawks Population Helping Researchers Study Declining Numbers

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7

A group of birds north of Fort McMurray is helping to better understand its threatened population.

In 2015, researchers from the University of Alberta put a GPS tracker on 10 male Common Nighthawks – who breed near the end of Highway 63.

PhD candidate at the U of A Elly Knight tells Mix News as this is one of the least study birds in North America, they wanted to find out where they go during the winter.

“Our Fort McMurray Nighthawks went all the way to Brazil and they came back within almost a kilometre of where we caught them a year before and we thought that was pretty neat.”

Knight says this is one of the densest populations in Canada since the migration.

“That population is doing well compared to a lot of other populations in North America.”

They’ve since put tags on 13 other Nighthawks populations. Knight notes some are doing well while others continue to decline.

“What we can now do is take the information on where all those different birds spend their year and try to understand what the difference is in the environmental conditions for the ones that are struggling and the birds that are doing.”

The hope is this will help researchers better understand why the numbers are dropping.

Meanwhile, all the information is going towards a larger study in partnership with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre.

-With Files from Elizabeth Priest

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