GPS tags reveal spectacular migration of Heuglin's Gull


Sri Lankan ornithologists have revealed the spectacular distances covered by GPS-tagged Heuglin's Gulls this year.

Two gulls were equipped with satellite tags on Mannar Island, in the north-west of Sri Lanka, in April 2021 by a team led by researchers Sampath Seneviratne and Gayomini Panagoda.

Both birds commenced their spring migrations that month, one (a female named 'Manike') leaving right away and the other (a male, 'Megha') some three weeks later.

Heuglin's Gull 'Megha' being tagged in Sri Lanka in April 2021 (FOGSL).

Megha was the first to reach breeding grounds on the Yamal Peninsula in Arctic Russia, arriving there in mid-May. Soon after, Manike also reached the Yamal Peninsula, albeit via a slightly different route that involved crossing the Ural Mountains into European Russia.

Both gulls spent the summer there, with Manike the first to commence autumn migration in late August. Megha, meanwhile, lingered until early October before setting off south.

Manike arrived back on Mannar Island on 4 November, completing her annual migration cycle. Her northward journey took 35 days, in which she covered 7,880 km. The southward migration was a little more leisurely, taking her 91 days to cover 11,480 km. This meant that her annual migration cycle, from wintering grounds to the Arctic and back, covered a spectacular 19,360 km.

Manike's full migration cycle (northward journey in red, southward journey in orange): a roundtrip of 19,360 km, from Mannar to the Arctic and back (FOGSL).

The researchers report that Megha is still on the move currently, but is in the final stages of his southward migration.

Find out more about the research at the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) Facebook page. FOGSL is the Sri Lankan affiliate of BirdLife International and was founded in 1976 to promote the conservation of birds and preservation of the environment in the country.