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American woodcock are tracked using Argos satellite telemetry by the Eastern Woodcock Migration Research Cooperative. Those migratory birds, travel nocturnally along the Eastern and central part of North America. Their secretive behavior makes their migratory behavior largely undescribed. Thanks to satellite telemetry, their migration is now tracked continuously by the Eastern Woodcock Migration Research Cooperative (EWMRC) with 4, 5 or 6.3-g Argos PTTs.

Photo: A wookcock captured for marking (credit EWMRC)

American woodcock

American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) are migratory forest birds living in the Eastern and central part of the north American continent. As their Eurasian counterparts (see Scolopax rusticola without frontiers on the Eurasian woodcock), they migrate nocturnally in Fall (October-December) and Spring (February-May). In general, American woodcock are difficult to observe during the non-breeding season and during migratory periods. As most migratory species, their population is declining – in their case, slowly but steadily of about 1% per year for the past 50 years or so. The lightweight Argos GPS PTTs now available enable to track them night and day by Argos satellite telemetry all along their migrations.

A wookcock with an Argos PTT (credit EWMRC)
A wookcock with an Argos PTT (credit EWMRC)

From October 2018 to January 2020, the Eastern Woodcock Migration Research Cooperative deployed 247 satellite transmitters on woodcock captured in 11 states of the United States of America, and 3 Canadian provinces throughout eastern North America, over what is called the “Atlantic flyway”, where a number of such migratory birds are traveling back and forth.

Tracked using Argos satellite telemetry

Movement data during spring and fall migration were thus obtained from these woodcock, with at least one full migration path for most birds. Analysis of the first years’ results show variability in the birds’ behavior. Some are very quick migrator, other take their time (from 2 to 73 days, with an average of 25 days for fall migration) even if the distance they must travel from their starting point to their destination is also a factor in the time needed (e.g., if starting from further north for fall migration). Mean migration distance between capture locations and residency site (wintering or breeding area) was 1,392 km in fall, and 1,245 km in spring. The distance covered during a single flight was highly variable. The longest single night flight distance recorded was ~1,000 kilometers! While most migration flights were shorter (mean between 252 km in fall and 177 km in spring), this example helps to illustrate just how far such a small bird can fly. Distance covered is likely dependent on factors such as wind direction and speed. During spring migration, the mean initiation data was 10 March and termination date 7 April. On average, it took 29.3 days to complete spring migration, longer in duration than fall migration.

Stops along the way

Animals often stop to rest and feed during migrations before continuing on their journey. This is referred to as “stopover”. One question is how frequently, in which kind of habitat, and for how long the migratory animal engages in stopover during their migration. It appeared that American woodcocks use a variety of habitat throughout their travel. In fact, the analysis of the tracks show they are using nearly every type of habitat imaginable – commercial forests, agricultural fields, suburban yards, industrial parks, and even the World Trade Center Tower Memorial in New York City!

Woodcock Stopover: commercial forest (Credit EWMRC)
Woodcock Stopover: commercial forest (Credit EWMRC)
Woodcock Stopover: suburban yards (Credit EWMRC)
Woodcock Stopover: suburban yards (Credit EWMRC)
Woodcock Stopover: a golf (Credit EWMRC)
Woodcock Stopover: a golf (Credit EWMRC)
Woodcock Stopover: World Trade Center Tower Memorial in New York City (Credit EWMRC)
Woodcock Stopover: World Trade Center Tower Memorial in New York City (Credit EWMRC)

On average woodcocks are using 4.4 stopover sites each during fall migration and remaining at each site for 5.4 days before continuing on. During spring migration, woodcocks were using slightly more stopover sites (4.8) and remaining at each site longer (an average of 7.4 days) before continuing migration.

Map of 20 March 2020: the woodcocks began moving north at the end of February / beginning of March for most of them. A few began earlier, and some, marked in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, have not left yet. A few have flown as far north as Wisconsin, Maine, and Michigan. As birds continue to move north, they are arriving on the edge of the snowpack and will likely need to wait for the snow to melt before continuing further north. (Credit EWMRC)
Map of 20 March 2020: the woodcocks began moving north at the end of February / beginning of March for most of them. A few began earlier, and some, marked in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, have not left yet. A few have flown as far north as Wisconsin, Maine, and Michigan. As birds continue to move north, they are arriving on the edge of the snowpack and will likely need to wait for the snow to melt before continuing further north. (Credit EWMRC)

 

Perspectives

As one of the participants in the study said, “The woodcock migrations study will enable us to learn about woodcock migration in 3 years than we’ve learned in the past 50 years using leg banding”. The goal is to gain a comprehensive understanding of woodcock migratory movements throughout the species’ range. This information can then be used to help plan habitat improvement projects, manage hunting, evaluate timing of breeding season surveys, and increase the knowledge of the species’ ecology and avian migration in general.

 

References and links

Eastern Woodcock Migration Research Cooperative

the EWMRC is a cooperative group of federal and state agencies, non-government organizations, and universities interested in understanding the full-annual-cycle movements of American woodcock, with a particular interest in migration.

 

A wookcock captured for marking (credit EWMRC)

27.04.2020 Animal tracking applications American woodcock are tracked using Argos satellite telemetry

American woodcock are tracked using Argos satellite telemetry by the Eastern Woodcock Migration Research Cooperative. Those migratory birds, travel nocturnally along the Eastern and central part of North America. Their secretive behavior makes their migratory behavior largely undescribed. Thanks to satellite telemetry, their migration is now tracked continuously by the…
penguins group

22.04.2020 Animal tracking applications 5 key figures for World Penguins’ Day

On April 25th, 2020, we celebrate World Penguin Day. There are 18 species of penguins worldwide, living almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere. From the noble Emperor penguin to the smaller, Little penguins, these aquatic birds are extremely endearing and inspiring creatures. Argos satellite tracking has made…
An eel in the sea with a pop-up tag

21.04.2020 Animal tracking applications Eels’ travel in the Atlantic tracked by Argos satellite telemetry

Eels, threatened by pollution, virus and parasites, overfishing, habitat loss and climate change have seen their population drop in the past decades. Their life and behaviour are studied to better understand the causes of this decrease. Their migration – when adults cross the Atlantic to the Sargasso Sea…
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15.04.2020 Animal tracking applications Two very different destinations for two adventurous turtles

CESTM coordinates the French Eastern Atlantic Marine Turtle Network and welcomes all marine turtles found stranded or in distress drifting or as accidental by-catch along the Channel & Atlantic coasts of France (from the Spanish border to the Belgian border). 220 of the turtles thus cared for have been released…
Forest elephant after attachment of PTT (Credits North Carolina Zoo)

09.04.2020 Animal tracking applications Argos helps to define a protected area for elephants in Cameroon

African elephants are under assault due primarily to the illicit ivory trade and, to a lesser extent, to habitat destruction and human incursions. Numbers are plummeting throughout most range states. Understanding elephant movement patterns, home ranges, land use patterns and corridor use are essential in developing conservation strategies.
A grey-headed albatross chick with an attached PTT (the aerial can be seen coming from the back of the bird). (credit Derren Fox)

30.03.2020 Animal tracking applications Tracking of juvenile grey-headed albatrosses

Albatrosses are iconic seabirds of the Southern Ocean. Argos satellite telemetry has greatly increased knowledge of the at-sea distribution and behaviour of adults, and contributed to initiatives aimed at reducing their bycatch in fisheries. However, much less is known about movements of juveniles and immatures, which are potentially at higher…
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16.03.2020 Flash news CLS Response to COVID-19

In this unprecedented situation, many countries have taken decisions to protect their citizens. CLS is bringing its full support to help fight the spread of the virus. We are following the recommendations of the WHO and the French government, while continuing to meet our customers’ needs.
A chinstrap penguin

16.03.2020 Animal tracking applications Chinstrap penguins are spreading a long way around Antarctica

Chinstrap penguins live around Antarctica. To understand better the precise reasons why their population is slowly declining, researchers from the Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division of NOAA fitted some of them from three different breeding grounds with Argos PTT, to track them during the Austral Winter, comparing the tracks with environmental…
One of the tracked birds, named EH, at Pak Thale, Thailand, 14 November 2019 (Credit Ayuwat (Ton) Jearwattanakanok)

02.03.2020 Animal tracking applications Spoon-billed sandpipers, long-range travellers

Spoon-billed sandpiper are small shorebirds migrating long distances from Russia to the south of China, mostly along the coasts. Argos telemetry is helping to answer questions about those migrations as part of an international effort to save the species. Photo: one of the tracked bird, named EH, at Pak Thale,…
A bowhead whale (cropped from Kit Kovacs/Norwegian Polar Institute)

17.02.2020 Animal tracking applications Bowhead whales, auxiliary oceanographers

Bowhead whales are crossing iced regions in spring. They dive along their path and the environmental parameters are recorded and transmitted if they are equipped with Argos satellite telemetry tags. Two different tags have been tested and their records analyzed for both oceanographic and ecological studies. Photo: A bowhead…
Two dorcas gazelles (credit C Enseñat)

04.02.2020 Animal tracking applications Dorcas gazelles’ seasonal patterns of activity recorded by Argos

Dorcas gazelles live North of Sahel, in Africa. In some countries they are vulnerable and reintroducing them requires assessing their ability of adaptation to a new environment. Argos transmitted activity data recorded by collars enable to better understand their modes of activities depending on the seasons. Photo Two dorcas gazelles…
An Olive Ridley turtle with an Argos PTT glued on its back. The glue is made so as to fall off within one year (credit Katsufumi Sato, University of Tokyo)

22.01.2020 Animal tracking applications Olive Ridley turtles help in ocean climate forecasting

Olive Ridley sea turtles live in the tropical oceans. They dive to feed, and, as all species of sea turtles, they are threatened these days. To help in understanding and protecting them, some are tracked using Argos satellite telemetry. However, the environmental data thus collected can help other fields of…
first message from Argos beacon

16.01.2020 Flash news ANGELS, the First French Industrial Nanosatellite, Works!

The first ARGOS satellite dedicated to environmental monitoring was launched in 1978 by NASA. Since then, this system has been at the service of the international scientific community and has enabled a better understanding of our Earth, its fauna, climate, meteorology, etc. Some scientists even say…
A silky shark with a pop-up tag (Credit NOAA Fisheries)

06.01.2020 marine animals Understanding silky shark movement patterns to avoid interactions with fisheries

Silky sharks occupy the same habitat as some marketable tuna species, thus leading to high risks of bycatch by fisheries. A NOAA study using a combination of telemetry technologies, including Argos satellite telemetry, aims to identify potential patterns in silky shark behavior in order to devise effective bycatch mitigation strategies.
ANGELS, Copyright David Ducros

18.12.2019 Flash news Angel, successful launch – The Argos metamorphosis is on its way

On December 18, 2019, the French Space Agency, CNES, has launched the first Argos nanosatellite, marking the beginning of a revolution in the Argos system as we know it. This nanosat is the prototype mission for Kinéis, a constellation of 25 nanosatellites with Argos instruments onboard…
Photo: A lesser kestrel with an Argos PTT (Green Balkans)

17.12.2019 Animal tracking applications Where do European Lesser Kestrels go?

The lesser kestrel is a small falcon migrating from Europe to Africa. A study using a large dataset of tracked birds made it possible assess the differences of migration paths and African arrival points depending on their breeding regions in Europe. This can used in devising effective conservation strategies throughout…
National Geographic “Sea to Source Expedition.” Photo copyright Alasdair Davies

13.12.2019 Flash news New, open-source access to the Argos system

Have you ever wanted to design your own Argos satellite transmitter? Now it’s possible!  CLS and the Arribada Initiative are pleased to announce a new open-source reference design by Icoteq, Ltd. Used with the ARTIC R2 chipset, a low power Argos 2/3/4 single chip radio, designed during an…
Weddell seal

06.12.2019 Animal tracking applications Better understanding of Weddell seals’ diving

Weddell seals are the most southerly breeding mammal species. They are found among other places in the Weddell Sea, but their behaviour and foraging strategies are not well-known, in an area itself largely unknown. Scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institut tracked them using Argos PTTs recording…
a porcupine crab with its harness (Credit University of Windsor)

29.11.2019 Animal tracking applications Deep-sea crabs tracked with Argos!

Deep-sea species are scarcely known. However, a team at the University of Windsor in Canada has devised a means of tracking porcupine crabs living at 900 m depth. Pop-up archival tags programmed to release at regular intervals emitted data, collected by Argos, resulting in a better view on this species’…
Male black caiman with an Argos satellite transmitter glued to its head (photo S Caut)

19.11.2019 Animal tracking applications Studying black caimans in and out of their pond

Crocodilians are tropical wetland ecosystems’ top predators, but they are rarely studied. Black caimans, which live between Central America and the northern part of South America, saw their population drop by 90 % in the 20th century. To have a better understanding of their behavior, scientists used Argos PTTs to track…
great spotted cuckoo iStock

14.10.2019 Animal tracking applications Great spotted cuckoos tracked far from the nest by Argos

Cuckoos’ most well-known characteristic is the laying of their eggs in another species’ nest taking advantage of the care provided by these foster parents (brood parasitism). But some cuckoo species, such as great spotted cuckoos, are also migratory. Advancements in Argos satellite telemetry – especially miniaturization of Argos tags –…
Saimaa ringed seal tagged with a GPS-Argos tag (Wildlife Computers, USA), photo: Saimaa ringed seal research UEF.

03.10.2019 Animal tracking applications Lake Saimaa ringed seals

Ringed seals are living during winters in ice covered environment, both sea and lakes. One of the subspecies is living around Lake Saimaa in Southeastern Finland, where human activities are restricting their living areas and the population is endangered. The University of Eastern Finland has studied their movement using telemetry…
Record-breaking animals

01.10.2019 Animal tracking applications Record-breaking distances revealed by Argos

New Argos tracking study by the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) reveals unimagined distances traveled by a female Arctic fox, from Svalbard to a remote part of Canada. In the Southern hemisphere, an Oriental pratincole, tracked by the Australasian Wader Studies Group, surprises scientists…
Kelonia expo

17.09.2019 Animal tracking applications Kelonia : Honoring sea turtles

For 15 years, Kelonia, the CEDTM and its partners (Ifremer, CNRS, Universities, TAAF, the French Biodiversity Agency-AFB,…) have equipped nearly 300 sea turtles with Argos tags to study their movements in the Indian Ocean – from the high seas to coastal waters. Their research has resulted in knowledge and understanding…
California condor

16.09.2019 Animal tracking applications Argos key tool for monitoring the reintroduction of California condors

Carrion birds in general, and especially the largest of them are often threatened species, even though they are providing huge ecological services. The California condors among them nearly disappeared. They are now recovering thanks to reintroduction efforts, but are still endangered, especially by lead poisoning. Pinnacles National Park and Ventana…
pegase2019 sasemar

20.08.2019 Flash news An Argos ocean buoy visits the Spanish coast

An Argos ocean buoy deployed off the coast of Banyuls, France, in May 2019, has been visiting the Spanish coastline – along with approximately 30 million tourists this summer. The buoy, deployed within the French Space Agency’s Argonautica project, in collaboration with students and teachers from the Lycée Alexis Monteil,…
An Oriental Pratincole with an Argos PTT antenna (Credit: Subbu Subramanya )

14.08.2019 Animal tracking applications Oriental Pratincoles: long-distance migrant birds

Oriental Pratincoles, Australia’s most numerous shorebird, spend up to three months in Australia, migrating to various parts of Asia to breed. To date, traditional marking using bands and flags has produced little insight into their destinations & migration paths. Using 2 g Argos satellite telemetry tags, their migration is monitored…
Humpback whale and tag (Credit University of Auckland)

31.07.2019 Animal tracking applications Argos helps in tracking where humpback whales feed

Humpback whales are long-range migrators, on the recovery after heavy whaling during more than 150 years. Understanding where they feed in the polar oceans, and why they might choose an area rather than another is helped by Argos telemetry tracking. Populations recovering from whaling, but not the same everywhere…
Arctic Fox

19.07.2019 Animal tracking applications From Svalbard to Canada, the long travel of an arctic fox tracked by Argos

Arctic foxes are living in all the regions around the Arctic ocean. Argos satellite telemetry tracking demonstrates that some of those foxes are changing continent using the sea ice as bridge, travelling thousands of kilometers in a few months in the process, from Svalbard to Canada. ‘Recordfox’ of distance Since…
A whooping crane with an Argos PTT on its right leg (Credit Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries)

17.07.2019 Animal tracking applications Argos helps track large scale movements of Whooping Cranes reintroduced into Southwestern Louisiana

Whooping cranes were nearly extinct in North Americas in the 1950s. Preservation actions initiated since then have enabled the protection of the species. Reintroduction programs, helped by Argos satellite telemetry are now increasing the populations, and enabling new discoveries on those emblematic birds. Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) are large birds…