With the use of the world’s smallest GPS trackers, scientists have been able to learn flight habits of nocturnal birds in the Westman Islands, reports RÚV.
The leach’s storm petrel, manx shearwater, and European storm petrel are all nocturnal birds that travel long distances and reside in the Westman Islands for part of the year. Scientists wanted to know more about the bird’s travel patterns, so they attached GPS devices weighing only 0.95 grams to the birds.
“This has never been done before in Iceland and we are actually mapping the habitat of these species,” says Erpur Snær Hansen, director of the South Iceland Nature Center.
The results show that the birds travel far for feeding. In the winter, the birds can travel as far south as Brazil and Namibia. Scientists are also attempting to do DNA testing on the birds.
“One of them decided to go all the way to Rockall, which is 600 kilometres south, and they go pretty far and wide,” says Erpur. “They’re up on the Atlantic ridge where the major oceans are, so they’re going south, but they’re over a very large area.”
The GPS devices do not have transmitters, so the scientists have to find the birds to collect the data.
“It’s a bit of a problem because they live underground and we have to find them and dig them out. We play their sound and they respond to us and then we know where they live,” says Erpur.
With climate changing and sea levels rising, it is important to keep track of the birds.
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