Tracking of migration of Gugny blackbirds with radio telemetry
Many birds are well-known for their long-distance migrations. However, in some species we can observe so-called partial migration, when only part of the population migrates and the remaining birds stay in their breeding areas, or facultative migration, when birds migrate only when external conditions (like temperature or food availability) become particularly harsh. Sometimes different population of the same species show different migration strategies. European blackbird (Turdus merula), a common forest species, is a good model for studying spatial variation of migratory behavior. Banding recoveries and anecdotal data suggest that populations from southern Europe may be mainly sedentary, populations from Scandinavia or Russia are fully migratory, whereas populations from Central Europe may exhibit partial migration. Moreover, blackbirds show remarkable behavioral flexibility, as proved by colonization of urban environment across Europe during the last two centuries.
In 2015, scientists from Max-Planck-Institute of Ornithology, Radolfzell, Germany (Jesko Partecke and Andreas Schmidt), and Institute of Biology, University of Bialystok (Paweł Brzęk), began studies of migratory behavior of blackbirds near Gugny field station. This is a part of large, international research project ‘Individual movement strategies in partially migratory species along a geographical gradient in Europe using radio telemetry’, coordinated by Max-Planck-Institute of Ornithology. Field works are carried out over the whole Europe, from Spain to Finland and Russia. Biebrzanski National Park was chosen as research site in Poland because behavior (and migratory decisions) of blackbirds here is unlikely to be modulated by human activity. Birds are mist-netted, equipped with radio transmitter, and released. Special recording system, installed at the Gugny field station, detects the presence of birds, the exact time of their autumn departure and spring arrival. In the spring, blackbirds that returned are caught again, radio transmitter is retrieved, and birds are then released. Collected data give detailed insight into migratory strategy of each individual bird.
Data collected during this project will yield important information about evolution of avian migration. This knowledge may be also important to predict how different populations or different species of birds may respond to environmental changes in the future (e.g. climatic changes).
Preliminary results suggest that Gugny blackbirds are fully migratory – and enjoy very high winter survival rate!
How the spring comes (or perhaps fly)… The arrival of the first radio tagged Blackbird to Gugny in 2016, as recorded by antenna in Gugny field station. We can say that this particular male arrived at 2:40 am, on March 10. Incredible accuracy!
Blackbird equipped with a radio transmitter and geolocator
Blackbirds with radio transmitter can be detected also from car's roof
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