Capture and tagging of a dove, satellite tagging of Turtle doves, Essex

Bird migration as it happens

Carles Carboneras, International Migrants Programme Manager, reports on our latest tracking work.

Tracking our birds

"Tracking birds with satellite technology is fascinating. Just think that, out there, a number of birds are breeding, migrating, resting and living their normal lives whilst carrying hi-tech devices that tell us where they are at any point in time.

As I am writing this piece, three UK-nesting turtle doves are on their African wintering grounds, after a journey of more than 2,500 miles. Their whereabouts can be followed daily on our tracking site. Not only that, anyone can download them to Google Earth and so it is possible to see the actual landscapes that the birds visit in their travels.

A lot of preparation has gone into making this happen

It started with the licensing by the Special Marks Technical Panel, who authorised our scientists to use a harness made of braided nylon, which mounts like a rucksack.

The whole package weighs less than five grams, which is within the 3 per cent safety threshold that guarantees that the welfare of the birds is not compromised and that the data represents the movements of free-flying turtle doves.

Where are our birds?

Our three birds are now in their wintering areas in Senegal and Mali. They travelled over the western part of the Pyrenees, through Spain, across the Strait of Gibraltar, along the western part of Morocco, crossing over the Sahara into the Senegal river basin, then turning east towards eastern Senegal and Mali.

Being able to follow the birds in almost real time has also provided concrete evidence of the type of threats that are associated with long-distance migration. A fourth bird was legally shot in Spain and the hunter, on finding it was tagged, handed in the device to the environmental police, who contacted the Spanish Ornithological Society SEO/BirdLife and they let us know. A fifth bird was lost in Morocco in an area that we have not been able to explore.

The individual stories of our tagged birds help improve our understanding of the conservation needs in every part of the flyway. Tagging is also a powerful tool in our aim to build a strong network of BirdLife Partners along the flyway, as the links become more obvious and the opportunities to collaborate are multiplied.

Thank you for supporting us with our work."

- Carles Carboneras, International Migrants Programme Manager

How you can help

Spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata, adult on lookout perch near nest, Bedfordshire

Thank you for what you're already doing to help our projects in the UK and abroad - we couldn't do it without you. If you feel you can donate some additional money at this time, it will help us achieve even more.