The team at BirdLife Australia are delighted to announce that three of the Grey Plovers have taken off from Broome on their annual northward migration! The first bird to depart, named ‘Ecosure’, has already made it to the South China Sea, just off the coast of the Chinese city of Shantou. While ‘Nad’ and ‘Charlie’ seem to have taken a different route and have stopped over in Indonesia.
This development is really exciting, because for the first time ever their journey won’t be shrouded in mystery. Although thousands of Grey Plovers visit Australia each year, we know almost nothing about their migration. But now, thanks to satellite technology, they’re beginning to reveal their secrets.
Unlike other species of migratory shorebirds, where we know so many intimate details of their most personal habits, the Grey Plover remains a mystery to science.
To solve the mystery, last month the Australasian Wader Studies Group, a special interest group of BirdLife Australia, fitted tiny satellite tracking devices to five Grey Plovers on a beach near Broome. And ever since then they’ve been waiting patiently for the birds to take off on their annual journey back to their distant northern breeding grounds.
By monitoring the birds’ voyage of discovery, the researchers at BirdLife Australia will be able to uncover their stop-over sites, where they stop to feed—and refuel—along the way to gain enough energy to complete their flight, a crucial step in the migratory process.
Pluvialis squatarola Charadriidae
Australia is the #1 destination for Grey Plovers, but only if they’re girls. Virtually all of the Grey Plovers that spend the non-breeding season here are female, making Australia crucial for the survival of the species. This year, volunteers from the Victorian Wader Study Group have attached satellite trackers to Grey Plovers with a plan to determine where the species’ most critical stop-over sites are, a vital development in ensuring these sites are protected.