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LOCAL News... Eye In The Sky: Satellite Tracking Helping Water Managers Keep An Eye On Waterbirds

Written by: The Cowra Phoenix

IMAGE: Dr Heather McGinness fitting a straw-necked ibis with a satellite transmitter.

Since 2017, ibis and spoonbill species in the Murray-Darling Basin have been sporting lightweight GPS mini-back-packs to help us understand more about these special birds. So, what have they taught us?

The CSIRO waterbird research team, led by Dr Heather McGinness, have been working with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office to satellite-track the movements of Straw-necked ibis, Australian white ibis and Royal spoon-bills since 2017. By keeping an eye on waterbird movements, we are learning more about how waterbirds behave and the habitats they need during their life cycle: where they fly, stop, feed, breed and roost.

Over the coming weeks, Dr McGinness’s team hope to be out and about in breeding sites fitting transmitters to birds. Dr McGinness said satellite-tracking water-birds is providing key information that is helping us better manage wetlands and water.

Local Engagement Officer for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, Michele Groat said this information is invaluable for supporting Basin water-birds with water for the environment.

“Science underpins our understanding of how plants, fish and waterbirds respond to water for the environment. This work ensures we are using our water in the best way possible to support river habitat, wetlands and animals in the Basin,” Ms Groat said.

The satellite transmitters used are so-lar powered and extremely lightweight, generally weighing only about 1-2% of the bird’s bodyweight. They are specially designed to be as unobtrusive to the bird as possible and are extremely accurate in providing location fixes.

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