One method that has added a new dimension to avian research
in recent years is satellite tracking. Tiny transmitters,
usually carried in harnesses strapped to the birds’
bodies, are linked to satellites. Each harness is custom-designed
for each species and manually adjusted for each bird for maximum
comfort of fit. The system enables researchers and conservationists
to track individual birds continuously.
The results achieved by satellite tracking are ground-breaking.
For the first time, the whole spatio-temporal pattern of successful
migrations can be captured at a level of detail far exceeding
that provided by ringing. Satellite tracking can also help
discover unknown breeding, moulting or wintering areas of
endangered species or causes of massive losses. When combined
with other devices, such as thermometers or miniature cameras,
additional information of the bird’s behaviour may be
transmitted to the satellite.
However, satellite tracking will never replace bird ringing.
The reasons for this are simple: transmitters are relatively
expensive, a large amount of technical equipment is necessary,
and the technique is limited to larger species (though transmitters
now weigh as little as 10 g).
EURING will incorporate data from satellite tracking into
its database in order to ensure that these extremely valuable
data are stored in perpetuity.
The Lesser White-fronted Goose is at present
one of Europe‘s most endangered bird species.
The most important single threat throughout it’s range
is the high mortality due to hunting and poaching.
The core problem was, and partly still is, that the staging
and wintering grounds for the species are
virtually unknown. To locate them, a few individuals from
the Fennoscandian population were equipped
with satellite transmitters. They revealed a loop migration
from the Norwegian breeding sites to the
moulting area in arctic Siberia, and the winter quarters in