Wigeons on the wing


As part of the DELTA-FLU project we try to reconstruct how influenza viruses can be dispersed by migratory birds, in particular dabbling ducks that breed in the taiga and tundra of Russia and that winter in Europe. With the aid of small transmitters attached to birds we can obtain highly detailed data on how the animals move on both small and large scales.

In February, 15 wild wigeons (Anas penelope) were trapped in the Netherlands and equipped with 15g solar-powered GPS tags that send data via the mobile phone net. For most of February and March, these birds were confined to a small wetland-rich agricultural area north of Amsterdam. But with the advent of spring in April individual wigeons started to migrate. At present, four of the ducks have migrated, all of them straight east for stopover sites in the eastern Baltic Sea, from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Belarus. The longest uninterrupted migratory leg was 1046 km, covered over 12 hours – giving an amazing average speed of 87 km/h! Hopefully in the next month we will be able to follow them to their breeding sites. You can follow their movements in the APP Animal Tracker (freely available).