A GPS tracker weighing just 0.95 grams helps scientists track the movements of three elusive nocturnal birds that remain in the Westman Islands of Southern Region in part of each year. The three species are the Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), the Leach’s Storm (Oceanodroma leucorrhoa), and the Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus), all of which spend their winters on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean in the Southern Hemisphere.

“This has never been done in Iceland and is actually mapping the feeding grounds for these species,” explained Erpur Snær Hansen, director of the South Icelandic Wildlife Research Center. Results for tiny trackers placed on Reach Petrel and Manx Shearwater have already begun to arrive, but petrel data are expected to arrive later this summer.

Traveled 600 kilometers to feed

The three species are related and are all nocturnal. “They only land in the Westman Islands, which take off at night, so they are rarely seen elsewhere,” Erpur said. He compared Petrel’s flight with that of bats and said it was “in many ways mysterious.”

GPS trackers have revealed that the Westman Islands reach Petrel is feeding west of the archipelago on the edge of the continental shelf. However, according to the data, individuals can travel far away. “One of them decided to go to Roccole, 600 km south, and go quite far,” Erpur said. “They go south to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where there are big whales, and cross very large areas.”

Liam Mason via Wikimedia Commons image. Roccole, about 600 kilometers south of Iceland.


Numbers are declining in the Atlantic Ocean

Placing a tiny tracker on a bird is not easy. “They live underground so it’s a bit annoying. We have to find and retrieve them,” Erpur explained. “We call them, they answer us, and we know where they live, but getting in there, grabbing them, and putting down the equipment is a whole different thing. It’s a challenge. ”The GPS device doesn’t include a transmitter, so you need to get a bird to read the data.

Petrel of Iceland’s winter reach that summer in both Namibia and Brazil. Winter of the Argentine Manx Shearwater. Elpur says there aren’t many species and the number of petrels in the Atlantic reach has diminished. This data is expected to help assess bird behavior and compare the two petrel species.

The tracked Westman Islands mysterious nocturnal bird-eating post first appeared in the Icelandic review.

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