Driving Through An Enhanced Bird Tracking Experiment

Today, the technological moves are paving the way for achieving the most precise and concise research findings. With the aid of solar nanotechnology aided tags, India has successfully traced the migration routes of Pied Cuckoo, compiling the best telemetry and tagging techniques.

With cutting-edge technology on our fingertips today, investigating wildlife and biodiversity is easier than ever. Emphasizing on geospatial technologies, the opportunities for monitoring and tracking of animals and birds have greatly expanded.

Be it the high-resolution satellite image or data collected from GPS enabled tags and collars on the species, researchers have been able to identify species’ movements, patterns, and even numbers, thereby improving biodiversity conservation.

This post will drive through India’s first successful attempt to recognize and trace the migratory paths of Pied Cuckoo, owing to their site fidelity, along with other climate change information.

Today the advancements in technology have redefined wildlife telemetry. Before learning about this big news, let’s look into telemetry, which has been a voguish technique for bird tracking. The following are the two primary wings of wildlife telemetry.

Radio Tagging

Radio telemetry is a conventional method for wildlife monitoring. This technology usually comprises a receiving station, a device connected to the signal receiver, single or multiple antennae, software to handle the data, and a power source. The receiving stations perform constant scanning to identify and locate tags that fall within their antennae range. Analysts acquire this data from the sensors and work on them to track the species.

In several instances, radio telemetry has resolved the issue for tracking smaller species, which other traditional techniques usually fail to perform. Moreover, significant concerns have occurred due to the restricted power of the devices to work for a longer time-frame. It is here that researchers introduced their open-source tracking technologies to monitor movements of species as fall as dragonflies.

There are two popular methods for determining the location of the birds.

Homing, this requires the scientist to move in the direction of the loudest beeps until they recognize the location of the bird,

Triangulation, where more than one researcher acts on the tagging and use multiple receivers to identify the source of the signal. Hereafter they construct the lines of direction to map the locations of the target birds.

Despite the affordability of VHF and UHF radio tags, the problem of physically tuning receivers and manually identifying every coordinate is crucial. To overcome this deficiency, several researchers opt for satellite-based tagging.

Satellite Tagging

The automated techniques of coordinate determination enhance the study of migration paths, patterns, and relationships with climate and weather changes. Traditional satellite telemetry utilizes the Argos satellite receivers with polar orbits, which are capable of receiving signals from the Platform Terminal Transmitter (PTT).

The tags transmit electromagnetic pulse through antennae, which the satellites receive and decode to interpret the data. The receiving station on the surface of the earth receives the decoded data and sends them to the laboratories.

Mostly, satellite tagging is advantageous due to the ease of precise measurements and location identification, at near-real-time, their size is an issue in many cases. Due to the power sources they use, the tagging devices are bulky and not suitable for smaller birds. Deploying lightweight, solar-aided tags caters to the complex research objectives efficiently.


India’s Pioneer Story in Tagging the Pied Cuckoo

This year India, for the 1st time, has been able to track, with success, the movement of the well known Pied Cuckoos. The hardest challenge concerning such technology-aided projects was, designing the tagging devices that the smaller species of birds could carry. This time, scientists put down their efforts on tracking birds that are smaller than the previous birds, that Indian institutes have been able to tag.

The Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS), in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), delivered this project. This specie flies down to India during the summer. In the folklore of North India, this bird finds its mention as Chatak.

The Thumb Rule 

The ideal criterion for deploying tagging devices is their appropriate weight. Ideally, the tags must be less than 3 percent of the mass of the birds. Therefore it was challenging to find an apt device for the small bird that weighs only 65 to 75 grams.

The team got their solar-powered transmitter chips from Microwave Telemetry Inc., a US-based company. The researchers tagged the bird, in 2019, with these devices that weigh only 2 grams, to find out if the bird returns to the same location again. Meeting their expectations, the bird revisited the same spot with the mounted devices, at the onset of the 2020 monsoon.

The scientists presume the target birds to stay in the Doon Valley up till monsoon-end before it begins its southwards migration towards the end of September.

Other Objectives of the Project

This collaborative project aims to develop an online geospatial dashboard for observing and tracking the patterns and trends of the Pied Cuckoo. This dashboard will include an interoperable locational analytical tool for executing geospatial modeling.

Additionally, the project is hopeful towards offering information on monsoon winds, seasonal fluctuations, changing patterns of monsoon, and related climatic factors.

The tracking of Pied Cuckoo is a dominant leap in the technological race for India. It’s part of a more prominent project that is funded by the Department of Biotechnology, under the Government of India, striving to provide insights on the bio-resources, on the digital platforms. The blooming technologies are crucial in their efficacious to upgrade migratory bird and animal tracking. Today, the advanced telemetry techniques, accompanied by geospatial techniques, are proven hacks for monitoring and conserving the biodiversity of the planet.









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