Birds with Satellite Tags
The most dangerous period in the life of Saker Falcons is the period between fledging and occupying an eyrie that can last even up to 3 year. That is the time when the young birds learn the world, learn how to hunt, experience the changes of prey populations, their seasonal movements and discover the areas appropriate for breeding. Of course, meanwhile there are dangers threatening them, which the young Sakers do not always manage to avoid: starvation, electrocution, shooting, predators stronger than they are, extreme weathers, poisoning, collision, diseases and so on. Part of them are natural factors, to which the species’ population has adapted and able to counterbalance the impacts. In these days, however, the species suffers from many negative impacts resulted from human activities. Those negative impacts added to the natural negative factors are yet challenging the species ability to survival. In addition, human impacts are threatening not only the juveniles, but also adult falcons.
A significant part of the conservation activities aims to eliminate or decrease negative human impacts (electrocution, shooting, poisoning, etc.). In order to focus species conservation activities, one needs to know the species’ habits, routes, ‘favourite’ sites, which is not an easy task in case of such a mobile species that is able to cover long distances within short time. State-of-the-art technology offers the solution: we mount juvenile Sakers with satellite-received transmitters that enable us to track the bird’s movements.
As we did in the previous project, when we tagged 46 Sakers in Hungary and Slovakia, we tag the falcons with 22 gram, solar powered and GPS embedded transmitters manufactured by Microwave Telemetry. The transmitters locate the bird several times a day and send the data to Argos satellite system in every third day. The data arrive to the receiving stations on the Earth and they are stored in an on-line database. We download them from there; we process and analyze them, in order to identify specific conservation needs.
In the second Saker Falcon conservation programme (LIFE NAT/HU/000384) again, a few dozen birds will be tagged between 2010 and 2014, in Hungary, Slovakia and Romania. In spite of the first programme, however, this time the emphasis will be given to study the habitat use of adult birds. It means that rather adult than juvenile birds will be tagged. As adults stay mainly around the nest, maps of adult birds will not be shown to avoid unwanted disturbance in the nesting areas.
In 2011, a Hungarian-Ukrainian Saker conservation co-operation has been launched and in the frame of the co-operation eight Sakers were mounted with satellite-received transmitters in Ukraine. Although the tagging in Ukraine is not connected to the LIFE programme, even if we assisted to it, in order to show the movements of the falcons and to make it possible to compare them to other tagged birds, maps of six of the tagged Ukrainian Sakers are presented on the website.