Two year study to track migratory birds

Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State for the Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Manpower, give the opening address at the Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative East Asian-Australasian Flyway workshop 2017.
Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State for the Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Manpower, give the opening address at the Arctic Migratory Bird Initiative East Asian-Australasian Flyway workshop 2017.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

The travel times, stopovers and breeding patterns of Singapore's avian tourists are being placed under scrutiny here, as the National Parks Board launches a two-year satellite tracking project of migratory birds which travel to Singapore during the winter months.

The data will play a critical role in the survival of various species which use the Republic as a stopover point to feed up and rest before continuing their arduous journey as far north as the arctic circle.

"Before we started using tracking technology, we did not know where the birds go and could not collaborate with other countries on conservation efforts," explained Mr David Li, senior conservation officer at NParks.

"With these studies we know which countries they go to for major stopovers for instance, and sharing such information with those countries will help in setting up bird conservation projects there," he added, speaking on the sidelines of the first Arctic migratory birds workshop held in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Sunday (Jan 8).

The shorebirds being tracked include Whimbrels, Bar-tailed Godwits, Common Greenshanks and Grey Plovers. With the new satellite trackers, researchers will be able to tell exactly where they are in real time, without the need to capture them again to find out.

The devices weigh either 5g or 9.5g and are solar-powered. The study is likely to start in March.

The upcoming project builds on NParks' efforts to tap on technology to obtain previously unknown information about birds. Between September 2015 and last March (2016), NParks recaptured seven Common Redshanks tagged with geo-locators - which can detect light and are used to record the location of the birds based on sunset and sunrise.

It learnt that the birds' main stopovers include the Inner Gulf of Thailand and that they breed at the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau in China. However, the birds had to be caught again for the data to be analysed.

Nearly 100 delegates from 35 organisations and 22 countries attended the workshop, where they discussed the conservation of arctic birds along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, which extends from within the Arctic Circle southwards through East and Southeast Asia, to Australia and New Zealand.