Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


Satellite-tracking the flight of the godwit

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Satellite-tracking the flight of the godwit

As the last bar-tailed godwits leave New Zealand estuaries on their northern migration to Alaska this week, Massey scientists will trace their journey via satellite-tagged individuals.

Dr Phil Battley, an ecologist at the University’s Palmerston North campus, says the shorebirds’ northern migration is of particular interest because the birds touch down in Asia and are potential carriers of the H5N1 bird-flu virus to the Alaskan region.

Dr Battley says that while the 11,000 km southern migration of the godwit from Alaska to New Zealand is thought to be the longest non-stop migration of any bird, not much is known about their northern route.

He is leading the New Zealand component of a collaborative research project with the United States Geological Survey and PRBO Conservation Science in the US to learn more about global migration patterns of declining shorebird species in the Pacific Basin.

With Dr Brett Gartrell, a wildlife veterinarian with the University’s New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre, and veterinarian Dan Mulcahy from the United States Geological Survey, Dr Battley oversaw the tagging of 16 godwits in the Firth of Thames and Golden Bay.

Eight of the birds were fitted with backpack tracking devices, and another eight had devices surgically implanted. Dr Gartrell says the implants are more secure than the backpack harnesses and do not affect the aerodynamics of flight.

The information gathered from the birds’ flight will answer questions about their stops en route and their routes from New Zealand to Alaska. Dr Battley, who has been working on movements and demographics of godwits for the past three years, says the birds have a major stopover in the Yellow Sea region of eastern Asia.

He says three birds have recently landed in the Yellow Sea, with one covering 11,000 km in just over seven and a half days, at an average speed of 56 km/hr.

“This probably qualifies as the longest migratory flight of its type measured in the world. Everything points to this bird having flown from non-stop from New Zealand to China.”

Other birds have stopped in Papua New Guinea, the Southern Philippines and on an island in Micronesia, and the rest are flying towards China or the Korean peninsula.

“They fly in reasonably small flocks of 30 to 70 birds, and if one has touched down somewhere it is probable that a flock has landed.”

The tagging project will also provide crucial information about the migratory behaviour of declining species. Throughout the East Asian and Australasian flyways, 85 per cent of shorebird populations are declining, and 40 per cent of shorebirds inhabiting Oceania are classified as threatened or near threatened.

Godwits arrive in New Zealand in September each year and the adults leave in mid-March, with adolescent birds staying until they are up to three or four years old. They are widely distributed, and the largest populations are found in the Kaipara Harbour, Manukau Harbour and Farewell Spit.

Dr Battley says annual population counts at these major sites show a decline in numbers, the reasons behind for which are not yet known. The increasing reclamation of tidal mud flats in Korea and China and the change in geography due to dams such as the Three Gorges Dam are also impacting heavily on bird life.

“We are entering a critical decade for these birds, so the research is timely and crucial,” he says.

The satellite track of the godwits’ navigation can be viewed online at: and more information on the project is available at


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Mining: OceanaGold Announces Receipt Of WKP Mining Permit

MELBOURNE, Australia, Aug. 6, 2020 /CNW/ - OceanaGold Corporation (TSX: OGC) (ASX: OGC) (the 'Company') is pleased to announce it has received the mining permit for Wharekirauponga ('WKP') on the North Island of New Zealand. ... More>>


Economy: COVID-19 Lockdown Has Widespread Effects On Labour Market

In the June 2020 quarter, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.0 percent, down from 4.2 percent last quarter, while underutilisation rose, Stats NZ said today. More>>


NZ Post: New Research By NZ Post Shows Online Shopping Grew 105% In Alert Level 3

New research by NZ Post into how the COVID-19 response has impacted the way Kiwis shop online, shows online shopping increased 105%* when the country moved into Alert Level 3, and may have changed the way Kiwis shop permanently. Online spend peaked ... More>>


Banking: Westpac NZ Lowers Merchant Fees For Small Businesses

Westpac NZ is rolling out a new merchant fee pricing structure that will lead to cost savings for more than 10,000 small and medium Kiwi businesses, and could make contactless transactions more widely available for customers. On 1 September, most ... More>>

REINZ: Million Dollar Plus Property Sales Increase 11.7% Nationally

The number of properties sold around the country for one million dollars or more during the first half (H1) of 2020 increased by 11.7% compared to H1 2019, with 5,426 million-dollar plus properties sold (up from 4,858 in H1 2019) according to the Real ... More>>

Waste: Government To Regulate Plastic Packaging, Tyres, E-Waste

The Government is stepping up action to deal with environmentally harmful products – including plastic packaging, tyres and e-waste – before they become waste. As part of the wider plan to reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in landfills, ... More>>


Antarctica NZ: Ice-Olation

Antarctica New Zealand is gearing up for a much reduced season on the ice this year and a very different deployment to normal! Before they head to one of the remotest places on the planet, all personnel flying south with the New Zealand programme will ... More>>


QV Valuations: July House Price Index Illustrates Market Resilience

According to the July 2020 QV House Price Index (HPI) results out today , property values recorded a marginal increase, up 0.2% over the month. This is somewhat of a turnaround from June, after the national index edged 0.2% lower. More>>


Property: Queenstown Rents Experience Biggest Drop In Seven Years

Rental prices in the Queenstown-Lakes district saw the biggest annual percentage drop in seven years after falling 28 per cent on June last year, according to the latest Trade Me Rental Price Index. Trade Me Property spokesperson Aaron Clancy said ... More>>

Seismology: The Quiet Earth

As many daily activities came to a halt during lockdown, the Earth itself became quiet, probably quieter than it has been since humans developed the technology to listen in. Seismologists have analysed datasets from more than 300 international ... More>>

RNZ: James Shaw Says Kiwibank, Not Ministers Should Decide On Investors

Climate Change Minister James Shaw says Kiwibank's decision to stop doing business with companies dealing in fossil fuels is the right one. More>>


FMA: Kiwis Confident Financial Markets Will Recover From COVID-19, Plan To Increase Investments

Despite the majority (60%) of investors experiencing losses as a result of COVID-19, the outlook on investing remains positive, according to a Financial Markets Authority (FMA) survey. Most Kiwis (71%) were optimistic that the pandemic will pass eventually ... More>>

FIRST Union: Warehouse Using Covid For Cover As Extensive Restructure Makes Everyone Worse Off

(FIRST Union comments on The Warehouse consultation and proposed restructure) 'Unfortunately the Warehouse have done the disappointing thing and used Covid-19 to justify a bunch of operational business decisions that will leave hundreds of workers without jobs ... More>>