Quack-nav! Ducks tracked for the first time using GPS

Shovelers, gadwalls and teal (c) Bertie Gregory/2020VISION

New project aims to shed light on ducks’ behaviour by fitting them with GPS trackers.

An ambitious new project has been launched to gain insight into how waterfowl use reservoirs and lakes in Greater London. The project is thought to be the first of its kind and aims to provide information on the activities of the wintering wildfowl throughout – where they feed, where they roost, when they move and what routes they use. Four ducks have so far been tagged at Rye Meads Nature Reserve in the Lea Valley near Hoddesdon and the project is expected to expand to further water bodies in the Colne Valley and Heathrow in the New Year.

The ducks have been fitted with GPS trackers which will allow researchers to track their movements remotely as they move between water bodies in the Greater London area. The project, which is a partnership between Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and Thames Water, will help to identify which water bodies are most important and will help researchers understand how best to manage these sites for waterfowl.

The Trust is excited to be working on this pioneering project with our partners. Little is known about the feeding and roosting habits of these birds and it will be fantastic to learn more about them.  
Tim Hill
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

The project will focus on gadwall and shoveler. These ducks are native to the UK, but their numbers swell in the winter as the UK ducks are joined by birds escaping the harsh conditions in central and north-eastern Europe.

Tim Hill, Conservation Manager at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, said:

“The Trust is excited to be working on this pioneering project with our partners. Little is known about the feeding and roosting habits of these birds and it will be fantastic to learn more about them. This project will also help us to manage the sites to best support wildfowl that spend the winter in the UK”.  

Paul Roper, the team leader tagging the ducks, said:

“It has been a real challenge catching the gadwall which is a difficult species to catch so we were delighted to make a successful catch of four birds on 30th November after weeks of watching the birds to work out how to catch them. We are really excited to deploy four satellite trackers and hope to get some information back over the next few weeks which will answer some of the questions we are posing.”

Sarah Scott, a Biodiversity Technical Specialist for the Environment Agency who part-funded the project, said:

“Knowing how and where ducks roost and forage will support the Environment Agency’s efforts to improve wetlands, vital to the health of the water environment, and with a number of benefits for nature and society. This is a really important piece of work.”

Knowing how and where ducks roost and forage will support the Environment Agency’s efforts to improve wetlands, vital to the health of the water environment, and with a number of benefits for nature and society.
Sarah Scott
Environment Agency

All the tagging and ringing of the birds has been done under license from the British Trust for Ornithology following strict guidelines to ensure that the ducks are not harmed during the tagging process. 

For further information please contact
Frieda Rummenhohl, Communications Officer
01727 858901 ext. 228
Frieda.Rummenhohl@hmwt.org