Projekt

Telemetry study songbirds

Many bird species are in decline. For example, the numbers of breeding starlings and skylarks in the Netherlands have decreased significantly due to the intensification of agriculture. Both species are also vulnerable to collisions with wind turbines which they encounter during migration, both overland and oversea. In order to avoid bird fatalities, it is crucial to assess the most important flight routes and know when peaks in migration activity occur.

Wageningen Marine Research and Wageningen Environmental Research, in cooperation with the ringing sites Vlieland and Castricum, conduct telemetry research into these species. Each year, we tag about thirty skylarks and thirty starlings and follow their flight movements with the MOTUS telemetry network. Preliminary results show that skylarks mainly migrate at night and often follow the coastline, although some have flown over the German Bight during spring migration. Starlings are usually active during the day and show a lot of back and forth movements, but when the conditions are right, they can cross the North Sea within a few hours.

The flightpath of a starling which was tagged on 8 November 2020 at Vlieland and appeared later that day near Den Helder. After some back and forth movements the bird flew back to the northern tip of Texel, where it stayed for a few weeks. On 5 December, 2020, the bird travelled along the coast to Petten. The next day, it flew onto the North Sea near Castricum and was detected 3.5 hours later at Languard (UK).
The flightpath of a starling which was tagged on 8 November 2020 at Vlieland and appeared later that day near Den Helder. After some back and forth movements the bird flew back to the northern tip of Texel, where it stayed for a few weeks. On 5 December, 2020, the bird travelled along the coast to Petten. The next day, it flew onto the North Sea near Castricum and was detected 3.5 hours later at Languard (UK).
Skylark with coded VHF tag (Photo: Arnold Wijker)
Skylark with coded VHF tag (Photo: Arnold Wijker)
Flightpath of a skylark which flew in the night of 4 November 2020 in just over six hours from the northern part of North Holland to southern Belgium. During the night of 2 February 2021, it began its return journey via Groningen to Emden in north-western Germany. Two weeks later, the journey continued in small steps towards the northeast.
Flightpath of a skylark which flew in the night of 4 November 2020 in just over six hours from the northern part of North Holland to southern Belgium. During the night of 2 February 2021, it began its return journey via Groningen to Emden in north-western Germany. Two weeks later, the journey continued in small steps towards the northeast.

Next steps

We will use the data to develop a model which predicts, based on environmental conditions (e.g. temperature and wind direction), when and where most flight activity can be expected. With this information, we can advise wind farm operators and the Dutch government where suitable locations for new wind farms are located. We will also be able to predict peaks in flight activity when it would be better not to operate wind turbines in order to avoid fatalities at these specific moments.

More about the MOTUS telemetry network