New Technologies Development to Benefit the Red-breasted Goose

TheGPS transmitters we put on Red-breasted Geese give us extremely valuable information about migration, breeding and staging sites, threats and underlying causes of mortality. However, despite we use the best design for the species they are difficult to fit and often not comfortable for the birds. That is why a year ago we at the BSPB, initiated a partnership with the Lithuanian tracking technology company Ornitela on a project for developing a new type of transmitter. The goal is to develop a collar based transmitter that is applicable to Red-breasted Geese.

The collar GPS tags have long been used for many large geese species, but there are still no suitable technologies developed for the Red-breasted Goose. The peculiarities of the species are the small body, the short neck and the small beak, which must be taken into account when designing.

After consulting with experts from WWT, we initiated a long process of developing the device by Ornitela design engineers and specialists. Last fall, we were able to come up with two design options that could be fitted for testing on live birds. At this point we contacted colleagues at Jersey Zoo and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust for assistance. The Darrell Trust is well known for the saving and restoration of rare and endangered species, founded by the famous author and conservationist Gerald Durrell, which makes this partnership more special. The response was positive, and after the application for partnership experimental testing of the new transmitters underwent an evaluation by the zoo’s ethics committee and their veterinarians, in February this year, the our colleagues launched the testing period by capturing and fitting the four collars to the zoo free ranging Redbreasts.

Dr. Glyn Young, Harriet Whitford and the intern Lydia Baxter – are the Jersey Zoo team involved in the study. The main activities for monitoring geese and gathering data on their behavior will be carried out by Lydia within the next couple of months. We shall evaluate the impact and feasibility of GPS collars to be used on birds in the wild and we hope that after the test period we will.

The possibility to introduce use of GPS collar transmitters can improve and extend the applicability of transmitters in the study of Red-breasted Geese and significantly reduce the processing and manipulation time of birds when fitting the transmitters. We hope that the trial study in Jersey will be successful and that we will soon be able to put in use the newly developed transmitters. At the moment, observations show that geese are feeling well and getting used to the transmitters so we are very optimistic so far.