Marking birds is a method used to track movements and determine patterns. Various methods are used to are used depending on the species, the questions to be answered, the budget, and the available technology. Technology is getting ever smarter, and smaller, and more cost effective. Satellite transmitters are now small enough to attach to birds, allowing movements to be remotely tracked and solar panels can now charge tiny batteries so that transmitters last longer.
Tiny mobile phone systems (Global System for Mobile communications, GSM) can now use the mobile phone network to transmit location (GPS) information from the tag to the end user. These systems send location data via text messaging systems. If the transmitter does not have network coverage it can log several thousand of data points and send them when it does come into an area with mobile network coverage. The units produce GPS coordinates, altitude, temperature and other data.
Licenced experts will be using GSM-GPS devices (‘Flyway-25’ from Movetech Telemetry) to mark birds of prey in Northern Ireland and we are delighted to say that the GPS-GSM tags have arrived! These units weigh just 25g and are perfect for tracking medium-sized birds of prey such as buzzards and red kites, less than 3% of the birds’ body weight.
The tags will be attached using a Teflon ribbon harness which is fitted specifically for each bird. They have a solar panel which means the battery should stay charged, and they will transmit location and movement data to us close to real-time, using the mobile phone network. For the first time we will be able to truly see where these birds travel, both day-to-day and between seasons. And if the worst happens, we will be able to track and recover the carcass to send for testing asap.
We will be blogging updates about tagging the birds and their movements in the Raptor-Track blog pages.