Apr. 17, 2013 — An Arizona State University biologist and her team have found that the Asian subspecies of great bustard, one of the heaviest birds capable of flight, covers migratory routes of more than 2,000 miles, traveling to and from its breeding grounds in northern
Mongolia and wintering grounds in Shaanxi province in . China
The research study, which is available online and will be published in the next volume of the Journal of Avian Biology, is the first of its kind to monitor the movement of this rarely studied subspecies through satellite telemetry and to connect a breeding population of Asian great bustards to their wintering grounds. The research also offers insight into conservation challenges.
Mimi Kessler, a doctoral candidate in biology at the
, has spent more than two
years on Eurasian grasslands, studying habitat use, population genetics, causes
of mortality and migration routes of the Asian great bustards. School of Life Sciences
"We attached GPS transmitters to these birds that collect location data," Kessler says. "These transmitters relay the datasets to a satellite system, so we are able to remotely monitor the movement of these birds very closely, something that has never been done before."
Great bustards are large birds found in grasslands from
Spain to . Males of the Asian
subspecies can weigh up to 35 pounds, but females only weigh up to 11 pounds.
The significant size difference between males and females makes bustards the
most sexually dimorphic avian species on Earth. Mongolia
Despite their large size, studying and monitoring these birds is no easy feat. Known for their elusive nature and wariness toward humans, Asian bustards are rarely seen with the naked eye. Kessler and her colleagues use spotting-scopes on hillsides to scan valleys in
it may take the team months to capture and tag a single bird. Mongolia