LifeWatch: GPS tracking network for large birds in Flanders | Marine@Ugent

LifeWatch: GPS tracking network for large birds in Flanders

The Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), the Terrestrial Ecology Unit and Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) installed a GPS tracking network to monitor the habitat use and migration patterns of the herring gull, the lesser black-backed gull and the western marsh harrier in Flanders.


3 ground stations, 11 antennas and 37 GPS loggers allow researchers to reconstruct the flight path and behaviour of individual birds, giving them insights into habitat use and migration patterns.


The installation of webcams in Oostende and Zeebrugge near nests allows them furthermore to observe nesting behaviour.


Marine@UGent members from the Terrestrial Ecology Unit are involved in the LifeWatch project by tracking the birds and gathering reproductive data, coordinating stable isotope research, and interpreting the obtained data in various ways (in terms of foraging and reproductive biology, allocation strategies, and optimal lifecycle strategies).


The first results are remarkable and interesting. Herring gulls have different foraging strategies and food preferences. Some individuals can be found at sea daily, whereas others eat shellfish found near breakwaters. For the lesser black-backed gulls, it becomes clear that this species forages in agricultural areas and not only at sea, as previously thought. Some specimens fly daily to Moeskroen, approximately 70 km, to… a chips factory.


Read more about it on the website or have a look at the flight paths and live feed from the webcam in Oostende: More information about the preliminary results (in Dutch) can be found at the website of Flanders Marine Institute.


(Pictures by Decker Misjel; Flanders Marine Institute)