Tagged wigeon migrates 10,000 km in a year


The 10,000-km annual migration of a Eurasian Wigeon has been meticulously documented thanks to a satellite-tracking project.

The bird, which was tagged in Finland, was shown to spend the winter on the east coast of England and Scotland, before migrating across Scandinavia to its breeding grounds in Russia. 

Its epic journey was recorded as part of Project Penelope, an international collaborative three-year project led by the Waterfowlers' Network and scientists at the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) focusing on Eurasian Wigeon, which is Amber Listed in the UK.

The project aims to learn more about the species along its flyway in the hope that it will help to identify and implement conservation measures in the future.

One of the tagged Eurasian Wigeon covered almost 10,000 km in a year (Matthew Barfield).

"Seeing the results of this first year's migration has really opened our eyes to the potential of this study," said Heather Dixon, science officer at BASC. 

"This three-year project will continue to provide data for years to come. It will bring new insights into the movement of wigeon not just within the UK, but across their entire migratory range."

The project team is using a range of techniques, including colour ringing and GPS tracking to learn more about the annual migration, site fidelity and survival rates.

The UK contribution to this project involves trained and licensed volunteers catching large numbers of wigeon and fitting them with coded colour rings, which are easy to read will make re-sightings easier to confirm in the field.

Heather Dixon added: "Our first year was not without its bumps in the road for the UK; flooding, COVID-19 and the effects of avian influenza caused problems up and down the UK. This sadly meant that some of the fieldwork could not go ahead.

"Despite these issues, we have had tremendous success, colour ringing a total of 695 wigeon in the UK. These birds generated 37 re-sightings across the country as the wigeon moved throughout the winter.

"The Finnish team has now deployed 57 GPS trackers in total, in the hope that we can learn more about their migratory passage."

The project is being funded by the Wildlife Habitat Charitable Trust, the Danish Hunters' Fund for Nature and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland.

To find out more, visit the Project Penelope website.