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Smithsonian scientists in Minnesota to help preserve songbird species

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A pair of scientists with the Smithsonian Institute Migratory Bird Center in Washington, D.C., are outfitting wood thrush birds in Minnesota with tiny backpacks in an effort to help preserve the rapidly declining songbird species, the Pioneer Press reports.

The devices the scientists are putting on the birds – located in the forests of northern Washington County – weigh less than a dime and contain "geolocator" tracking devices, which will be used to preserve the wood thrushes' habitat, the paper says. The backpacks go over the birds' hips and legs, and sit on their backs with an antenna attached to pick up a GPS signal.

One of the scientists, Calandra Stanley, tells the Pioneer Press "one of the biggest threats to migratory songbirds is forest fragmentation," and maintaining their forest habitat "is probably the biggest thing that could help migratory songbirds in Minnesota."

The scientists hope to put sensors on 25 wood thrush birds, and have tagged 14 of them so far, the Pioneer Press says.

Similar efforts to protect the wood thrush have been made in places like Kentucky, the Lewisboro Ledger reports.

According to the publication, the National Audubon Society identified the wood thrush as the priority species for conservation.

The society says the population of the songbird has declined about 50 percent since the mid-1960s.

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