As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Student Tracks Asian Bird's Migration Patterns; Recommends Conservation Strategies

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 School of Life Sciences, 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.

"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 Mongolia. 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.

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 Mongolia, but it may take the team months to capture and tag a single bird.

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