Great Bustard Tracking System

Posted on Thursday, October 13th, 2016

The GBG has used a number of different techniques and devices to keep track of the captive reared Great Bustards. GBG found that large GPS Satellite units attached by a body harness could injure the birds and restrict their movements. Tail mounted radio trackers tended to moult out before useful information could be gained. Necklace radio transmitters deigned by our then project partners during the LIFE project were unsuccessful in that they fell off very quickly.

The GBG has used a tracking system developed by New Forest Communications, based in Ringwood. The devices transmit a signal to a receiving gateway station every two minutes. The data is recorded on line in live time, as each gateway is connected to the internet.  GBG has installed gateway stations at each of our release sites and in other key areas. We also have a vehicle mounted gateway. Our transmitters can be picked up by other gateways set up by other users of the system.

Should a bird carrying a transmitter leave the area the system will show the time it left.  If it is not picked up by another GBG gateway it may be located by another gateway or by the mobile gateway which can be sent to search suitable areas.

The system has shown that the young birds will move from one GBG reserve to another with surprising regularity, and often return to the original one in the same day. All these movements are recorded on the system.

A necklace that hangs around the neck of the bird attaches the transmitters. The necklace has an elastic section and is also cut and then stitched with soluble thread. This thread will break and the transmitter will fall away some 6 to 10 months after attachment. This prevents any bird having to be encumbered with any device for longer than necessary. Just over half of the birds released this year are carrying transmitters.


A young male Great Bustard with a transmitter caught on a remote camera.

New Forest Communications recently flew a test transmitter in a straight line across the counties of Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire. The transmitter was picked up by no less than 11 static gateways as it crossed the area sown on the map below – none of which were the GBG gateways. This indicates that should any transmitter carrying Bustards leave the monitored area there is a good chance they will automatically be detected, without deploying the GBG mobile gateway.


The test transmitter was picked up by the gateways marked in blue

Contacts for New Forest Communications 

Ben Chappell

New Forest Communications Ltd,

50 Christchurch Road,



BH24 1DW

Tel: 01425 485263



Categories: News


Posted by Paul

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