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    GPS tracking reveals flying habits of Orford Ness gulls

    NewsBird NewsTuesday 10 April 2012
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    UK Birds

    Gulls breeding at a Suffolk nature reserve have been found to have surprising flying habits.

    GPS technology is being used by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to track birds flying from the National Trust's Orford Ness reserve.

    Twenty five lesser black-backed gulls were fitted with solar powered tags.

    Dr Viola Ross-Smith, of the BTO, said: "We didn't realise how varied these gulls' journeys were. We've had some go down to Spain, Portugal and Africa."

    The project is funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which wants to investigate how the birds might interact with offshore wind farms.

    Orford Ness and the surrounding area, the Alde-Ore Estuary, is a Special Protection Area for the birds.

    'Differences in sex'
    Dr Ross-Smith, a research ecologist, said it was unclear why some of the birds travelled hundreds of miles south while others remained in East Anglia.

    "We can speculate, it's been a lot warmer this year than last year," she said.

    "Last year they all went south, this year they didn't. It could be something to do with differences in sex, but we don't really know."

    The tags provide live data about the birds' locations and altitudes.

    "We can see exactly what they're doing at any one time," said Dr Ross-Smith.

    "We can see where their feeding sites are, where the roosting sites are, so it could be really useful for their conservation."

    The University of Amsterdam is also involved in the research. Dr Ross-Smith said scientists in Holland had tagged species including oyster catchers and marsh harriers.

    Source: BBC News

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