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Telemetry studies

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The annual migration range of many long distance migratory species covers tens of thousands of kilometres and often very remote regions, such as the arctic tundra, and the precise routes of these birds has long been a mystery. Understanding the epidemiological basis of the movement of the Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 and evaluating the role of wild birds in the movement of the virus has necessitated the development and implementation of transcontinental studies of migratory birds. This work has been made possible through the use of light weight and reliable satellite transmitter terminals (PTTs) and the latest high resolution global positioning system (GPS) transmitters that can be mounted on the birds or implanted under their skin to trck their movements. The transmitters can beam data via satellite to collect very precise information on the multiple locations and habitats used by the birds on their migration cycle. The technology has been successfully tested on wide size range of wetland and non wetland species, including cranes, swans, geese, pelicans, shorebirds, gulls, eagles, storks, bustards and others.

FAO is leading and facilitating a range of collaborative activities to study the epidemiology and ecology of HPAI H5N1 in wild birds and the migratory habits of these many species with national and international research groups and scientists including, but not limited to, the Centre International de Recherche en Agriculture pour le Développement (CIRAD), U.S. Geological Survey, Wetlands International, Wildlife Science and Conservation Center Mongolia, Wildlife Conservation Society, and many others (see Partners link).

The results of this work are helping increase our understanding to enable a more informed evaluation of the linkages between agriculture and wildlife and possible routes of disease transmission and spread. This, particularly in relation to the timing of migration and habitat use by key migratory wild bird species as it relates to HPAI H5N1 outbreaks in poultry and wildlife.

General “flyways” used by migratory shorebird species

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Credit: Wetlands International

Telemetry studies are currently being carried in the following countries

Target bird species in our satellite telemetric research are:


Comb Duck - Sarkidiornis melanotos
Common Shelduck - Tadorna tadorna
Common Teal - Anas crecca
Fulvuous Whistling-Duck – Dendrocygna bicolor
Garganey Teal - Anas querquedula
Northern Pintail - Anas acuta
Northern Shoveler - Anas clypeata
Spur-winged GoosePlectropterus gambensis
Whitefaced Whistling Duck - Dendrocygna viduata


Baikal Teal Anas - Formosa
Bar-headed Goose - Anser indicus
Chinese Spotbill - Anas poecilorhyncha zonorhyncha
Common Teal - Anas crecca
Eurasian Wigeon - Anas penelope
Falcated Teal - Anas falcata
Gadwall - Anas strepera
Garganey Teal - Anas querquedula
Great Black-headed Gull (Pallas's Gull)- Larus ichthyaetus
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Pintail - Anas acuta
Northern Shoveler - Anas clypeata
Red-Crested Pochard - Netta rufina
Ruddy Shelduck - Tadorna ferruginea
Swan Goose - Anser cygnoides
Whooper Swan - Cygnus cygnus


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