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Waterbirds’ stories revealed through satellite tracking

By on 2 May, 2018

A flock of straw-necked ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis) and Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) take to the sky above their breeding site at Barmah-Millewa Forest, a wetland of the Murray River. Image credit: Heather McGinness, via CSIRO project page.

New research from the CSIRO aimed at improving water management in the Murray-Darling has revealed intimate, fascinating detail about the lives of individual animals.

The fitting of GPS trackers to follow movements of 40 Straw-necked Ibis, 15 Royal Spoonbills and five Australian white Ibis this year has made the project the largest tracking study on Australian waterbirds, and revealed the intricate patterns and personalities of the birds.

Researchers were intending to determine the birds’ flight routes, eating and breeding sites to help boost survival rates, and inform interaction between water management, predation, extreme weather and food abundance.

What they discovered was a rich, detailed dataset of behaviour patterns that defied expectations and showed remarkable variance in the movements and habits of individuals. See below for some of the notable stars of the Murray-Darling wetlands. Click on each map to view in full resolution.

Gaia

Adult female straw-necked ibis

Tracked from: Kow Swamp, Victoria

Date tracked from: 3/12/17

Right leg band colours: orange over metal

Left leg band colours: red over white

Elvis

Adult royal spoonbill

Tracked from: Millewa Forest, NSW

Date tracked from: 27/2/18

Right leg band colours: orange over metal

Left leg band colours: dark blue over white


Santa

Juvenile male straw-necked ibis

Tracked from: Kow Swamp, Victoria

Date tracked from: 2/12/17

Right leg band colours: orange over metal

Left leg band colours: red over dark green

 

Lucy

Juvenile royal spoonbill

Tracked from: Millewa Forest, NSW

Date tracked from: 25/2/18

Right leg band colours: orange over metal

Left leg band colours: light blue over black

View the full cohort of tracked birds and their unique patterns at the CSIRO’s tracking page, and learn more about the greater initiative at the project page.

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