Saturday, January 26, 2013
Whose vulture is this?
Satellite tracking of birds is an expensive undertaking, but the results are invariably worth the cost. This has proved to be the case with a joint project being undertaken by BirdLife Botswana in partnership with CKGR Research and the Denver Zoological Foundation. The project aims to determine the movements of Lappet-faced Vultures in Botswana, specifically to ascertain whether the birds are able to meet their year-round requirements in Botswana’s large protected areas, or whether they scavenge in areas where they could be susceptible to poisoning by humans. The project is in its early stages, but to date we have captured five adult Lappet-faced Vultures using a cannon net, and attached satellite transmitters to all five – four in the Central Kalahari and one in the Makgadikgadi. The precise positions of the birds are recorded every two hours during the day, and initially it was clear that most of them were breeding as they remained in a fairly prescribed area around specific points which we presumed were their nests. Since the end of November, their home ranges have been expanding rapidly, and some spectacular movements have been undertaken. One particular bird made a long-distance foray into southern Namibia, and then returned a few days later, as shown on the map below.