USGS Western Ecological Research Center

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Ruddy shelduck with satellite transmitter. --Photographer: Samiul Mohsanin/WTB

Satellite Tracking Migratory Birds

Migration is the regular seasonal movement of animals from one place to another, often from breeding to nonbreeding sites, and is common among most birds. Migratory connectivity, or the links between breeding and nonbreeding areas is not well understood. Recent advances in methods for examining these links, including advanced telemetry, chemical isotopes, and molecular genetic markers, offer more insight into migratory connectivity.

Radio transmitters for migratory birds have progressed from short-range, very high frequency (VHF) packages in the 1960s, to platform transmitter terminals (PTTs) in the 1990s, and global positioning system (GPS) transmitters in 2000s. Miniaturization of transmitters has resulted in availability for use on a greater number of species. The USGS is known for expertise in application of transmitters in studies of migratory birds. USGS has developed partnerships in North America with several groups including Ducks Unlimited, California Waterfowl Association, and the Sea Duck Joint Venture. Recent international partnerships, including with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Mongolian Academy of Sciences (MAS), and Mongolian Wildlife Science Conservation Center (WSCC), to study movements of migratory birds, especially in relation to risks of disease transmission.  Click this link to see recent international projects.

Disclaimer:  These data and maps are provided as a public service and educational tool for the general community interested in migratory birds.  Any use of this information for scientific analyses, manuscripts, or presentations requires permission from the teams of principal investigators that collected the datasets.

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