Satellite Tracking study of duck wintering in HK 衛星追縱港渡冬野鴨

Satellite Tracking study of duck wintering in HK 衛星追縱港渡冬野鴨

Satellite tracking wild birds to study linkages between migratory birds and highly pathogenic avian influenza

After several years of planning, the Department of Microbiology of The University of Hong Kong (HKU), Asia Ecological Consultants (AEC), World Wide Fund For Nature Hong Kong (WWF),US Geological Survey (USGS), and the EMPRES-Wildlife Unit at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with support from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, China, have recently launched a study in wild bird migration from Hong Kong.
Wild birds are often blamed to have spread avian influenza, but at present, little is known about their migratory routes and if they are connected to the spread of avian influenza. In an effort to better understand the role of migratory birds in the ecology and epidemiology of avian influenza, HKU, WWF and partners trapped, sampled, and marked 24 wild ducks with satellite transmitters on the December 10, 2008. Swab samples collected from these birds were tested for avian influenza viruses and Newcastle Disease at the HKU and found to be negative.
We anticipate that this project to satellite track movements of wild ducks will reveal more information about the linkages between the migration of wild birds and their involvement, if any, in the spread of avian influenza viruses. Past ringing studies have demonstrated that ducks from Hong Kong, specifically Northern Pintail and Eurasian Wigeon, migrate to northeastern China and the Russian Far East in the spring.  However, little information exists about their migration routes, stop-over sites, timing, or final destination.  Small satellite radios, attached to these ducks with backpacks, record and transmit GPS locations to provide detailed ecological information about their movements.  Scientists will be able to determine whether bird locations coincide with outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 along their migration pathways.  
The study is important to Hong Kong as the Inner Deep Bay wetland, which is listed as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, provides both wintering and stop-over grounds to waterbirds migrating along the East Asian Australasian Flyway. Last year around 89,000 migratory and resident waterbirds were recorded during winter from the Deep Bay area and 20,000 shorebirds during the spring/autumn migration periods.
To date, over 30,000 samples from healthy wild birds collected by HKU from the Deep Bay area since 2003 have been tested negative for HPAI viruses, suggesting that the direct risk to humans from these species of healthy migratory wild birds is negligible. However, it should be noted that dead migratory or non-migratory wild birds found anywhere in Hong Kong should not be directly handled by the general public, and the AFCD should be contacted to investigate the cause of death and to properly dispose of carcasses.
The FAO and USGS have five other such projects throughout East Asia. Movements of the Hong Kong satellite tagged ducks can be viewed online by visiting the USGS website ( ).


經過多年的策劃,香港大學微生物學系與亞洲生態環境顧問有限公司、世界自然基金會香港分會、US Geological Survey (USGS),及聯合國糧食及農業組織之野生動物分隊在香港漁農自然護理署(漁護署)的協助下,最近進行一項研究野鳥遷徒路線的計劃。


而聯合國糧食及農業組織與USGS亦同時於亞洲其他五個地方進行此計劃。閣下可於以下網頁瀏覽在香港裝置衛星發訊器的野鴨之遷徒路線: ( ).

[ Last edited by BWA at 30/01/2009 06:00 ]


In response to the concerns listed above please note the following comment from John Takekawa from USGS (one of the partners in the study)

"The ducks are marked with a small backpack (<3% of their weight) attached with ribbon, a method that has been used by waterfowl biologists for more than 3 decades.  The ribbon should wear out in a few years or sooner, and the transmitter will fall off of the duck.  We find that most birds adjust to the backpack and will nest and otherwise behave normally."

John Y. Takekawa PhD, Research Wildlife Biologist
USGS Western Ecological Research Center

I have also seen a number of the birds since the transmitters were attached and none seem to be affected by the transmitters.

Hopefully the results of the study will outweigh the minor inconvinience to the birds.


One of the Pintail has just made a 150 km movement to the east along the Guangdong coast.  It looks like they just beginning to start migrating north!

If you zoom in on Google Earth you will see that it has found what looks like a very nice bit of habitat, perhaps not too different to Mai Po!