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Tabarca, advanced workstation of the University of Alicante for the study of migratory birds


Alicante, March 7, 2011

The University of Alicante has found in Tabarca a privileged location for studying migratory birds. It is part of a scientific bird ringing workstation in which birds are captured in their transit from Africa and banded so as to allow us to know the strategies they use in their migratory movements.

Tabarca is integrated in the international project Piccole Isole, which is developed in Spain  by the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO), and in Alicante, by the local group of this association. The University of Alicante is involved through the Department of Ecology and the Ramón Margalef Institute and performs data analysis. Germán Lopez, representative of the UA in this activity, says that it has been conducted over the past two years and the new campaign this year is taking its first steps.

The project, taking place in Italy, France, Britain and Morocco, as well as in Spain, has currently about 20 workstations on small islands, all of which BirLife Network is in charge of, being the Spanish SEO a member of this network. The scientific ringing, consisting of placement on a leg (hock) of a metal ring engraved after examining the bird, allows ornithologists  to have databases with millions of records across Europe, which constitute a powerful tool for scientific studies. If the sample bird is reunited, we can find a variety of aspects of its life.

The islands are of strategic importance for these animals as places for rest, food or shelter, and if they are of limited scale, as it is Tabarca, capture networks can  cover an optimum percentage of the total territory.

After being caught in long nets fastened vertically to the ground and be placed the identifier ring in their legs before returning to freedom, the details of each bird -ranging from the estimated age at length of the wing and tail, weight, sex and more- are recorded.

In the 2009 and 2010 campaigns, which began in April and lasted two months, about 1,300 birds were captured on the island. The researchers were able to observe that migration occurs in waves that are detected as large differences in the number of captures in close dates, although the dates of higher migration are consistent in both years. The three most ringed species in Tabarca are Willow warbler (the most abundant), the Redstart and the Common Chiffchaff. A total of 40 different species had been captured. Ornithologists think that captute period should be extended to the months of March, April and May.

Environmental educational programmes are also performed at this workstation with students participating in the work of ringing. The University of Alicante, on the other hand, envisages to involve undergraduate and graduate students in the preparation and publication of the information obtained.


In the image, an already ringed Redstart

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