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    Birds now being tracked with tiny backpacks loaded with sensors

    NewsBird NewsTuesday 26 March 2013
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    For a long time the migrations and flight of birds has been a curiosity that one has never been fully able to look into great detail. Scientists know that birds migrate, that is obvious, but it is the individual details like how fast does the bird go, how often does it rest and what specific route does it take. These questions may finally now be answered. With the invention of a small “backpack” scientists are now able to track the exact speed and location of a bird’s flight. The backpack represents a whole new level of accuracy.
     
    The backpacks are tiny and weigh less than a penny. They work with sophisticated sensors and are attached to the bird near it's hips and wrapped around its legs. Already scientists are finding out more, for example birds travel at speeds much faster than once thought. The true potential of this technology is to help understand why species die out due to habitat loss and climate migration. It may also help understand how some are not able to make the migrations due to illness and injury. Scientists know much about point A and point B but it is the route that the new sensors can help explain.
     
    Tracking birds is nothing new. In 2001 Jacques Perrin created a film called “Winged Migration,” they used remote control gliders and light aircraft to follow migrations across the planet. Others have tried to attach trackers to bird’s legs and even using radars to track flocks however so far not much luck has been learnt from these methods. This new system was developed by the British Antarctic Survey for tracking albatrosses. However an albatross is a large bird and the tracker designed for the albatross was not suitable for say a smaller bird like a songbird. However further development allowed the tracking device to become smaller and smaller so that it would fit a song bird. Already data is being gathered and analysed. 
     
    Photo: Wikimedia
    Source: NY Times
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