Tracking the Oriental Pratincole – Update #25

The AWSG Satellite Tracking Projects


The Australasian Wader Studies Group (AWSG) has been using satellite transmitters for tracking the migration of shorebirds visiting North West Australia since November 2013 when five 5g satellite transmitters (PTT) were deployed on Little Curlew in Roebuck Bay, Broome.  In February 2017 satellite trackers were placed on Whimbrel and in February 2019 on Oriental Pratincole. 

The platform transmitter terminals (PTTs) were programmed to send signals for 10 hours then to be silent for the next 48 hours.

Oriental Pratincole

The AWSG deployed 5 satellite transmitters on Oriental Pratincoles (2g PTT units) in February 2019.

It is exciting to track birds with satellite transmitters because up-to-date location data is received as the bird flies or rests after migration. This occurs either in real time or at a maximum of two days behind the recorded event.

As of the 29th April 2020, our tagged Oriental Pratincoles, SEC and SHE, remain on their respective breeding grounds in Cambodi. Hopefully they are tending to nests or chicks. SEP is now officially on the breeding grounds in Karnataka, India, with one signal being received on the 18th April.

Little is known about Oriental Pratincole breeding biology. What we do know is the nest consists of 2 to 3 eggs on the ground. The breeding site is often modified land used for agriculture; land grazed by livestock or harvested fields. Actual nesting biology for Oriental Pratincole has not been formally studied but it is thought that the Collared Pratincole may have similar habits:

Incubation = 17 to 21 days
Semi-precocial chicks leave the nest @ 2-3 days of age
Chicks fledge @ 25 to 30 days
From egg to fledging = 42 to 51 days

Map of migration tracks of three satellite-tagged Oriental Pratincoles from Broome to India and Cambodia
Figure 1. Migration tracks of three satellite-tagged Oriental Pratincoles, SHE, SEC and SEP as of 29th April, 2020.
Map showing flight paths of three Oriental Pratincoles over the East Asian-Australasian and Central Asian Flyways
Figure 2. Flight paths of the three Oriental Praticoles over two Flyways - the East Asian-australasian and Central Asian - as of 29th April, 2020.
Table 1. Distance from release location of three Oriental Pratincoles - SEP, SHE and SEC - as of 29th April, 2020.
Tagged Oriental Pratincole, SEP, standing on the breeding grounds in Karnatka, India
Photo 1. Oriental Pratincole, SEP, on the breeding grounds in Karnatka, India, May 2019. Photographed by Subbu Sabramanya.

Download a PDF copy of this report – Oriental Pratincole Satellite Tracking Report 25


Clive Minton

The extensive and expensive satellite tracking program we have set up in NWA has only been possible through the efforts and generosity of a large number of people and organizations. It is difficult to know where to start with the formal acknowledgements so I will list them – but not in any particular order of priority.

  1. The members of the AWSG NWA 2019 Wader and Tern Expedition and similar NWA expeditions in previous years, are particularly thanked for their efforts in the field in catching, banding and deploying transmitters on a range of species.
  2. Landowners are especially thanked for permission to go onto their property to enable us to catch various species in order to deploy the satellite transmitters. In particular we thank Anna Plains Station for giving us the freedom to roam over large areas of grazed grassland when counting and catching target species.
  3. AWSG acknowledges the Yawuru People via the offices of Nyamba Buru Yawuru Limited for permission to catch birds on the shores of Roebuck Bay, traditional lands of the Yawuru people.
  4. AWSG acknowledges the Karajarri and Nyangumarta people for permission to catch birds to be marked for this project on the shores of 80 Mile Beach, traditional lands of the Karajarri and Nyangumarta.
  5. The cost of the satellite transmitters, which cost around $5000 each, and the satellite downloading costs (around $1000-1500 per month) have been met by a variety of sources. Private individuals (Charles Allen and Doris Graham) have made most generous individual contributions. Kate Gorringe-Smith and her team of artists involved in The Overwintering Project made a large, generous donation from funds raised during their various public exhibitions. The annual NWA Expedition members, collectively, also provided significant funds each year.
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Grace Maglio
Grace began working in conservation in the late 1990’s, but it wasn’t until she stopped in Broome halfway into a trip around Australia in 2013, that she discovered migratory shorebirds. She was spellbound and has been promoting their conservation ever since.
Image credits:
Book cover for A Shorebird Flying Adventure

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Milly Formby is a zoologist and illustrator of the children’s book A Shorebird Flying Adventure. Available now through CSIRO Publishing.

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