Satellite tracking of Black-tailed Godwits in the Dümmer area, Lower Saxony

Black-tailed Godwit is one of the focal species for meadow bird conservation within the EU and also in Lower-Saxony, Germany. Despite much effort the population of the species is still declining in Lower-Saxony – as almost everywhere in Europe. Main reasons of the decline at the breeding sites are well known and can be found esp. in intensification of land use.

The Federal State of Lower Saxony started the LIFE+ Project “Meadow Birds” in 2011, cofounded by EU (60%). With additional funding more than 30 million Euro are invested to increase habitat quality in the breeding grounds for stabilization of population and increasing the fledging success to change the sink areas into source areas. The 12 most important core areas of the state are project sites, holding 60% of Lower Saxony Godwit Population (see

One of the most successful meadow bird sites is in Dümmer area (5.000 ha), South-West of Lower Saxony. By re-establishing and re-wetting of wet meadows decline of Black-tailed Godwit has stopped and stock turned over into a growing population. During the last 15 years population has been more than tripled. Annual fledging success in mean is sufficient.

For conservation issue it is essential to get more information about the connectivity, the function of different areas used by Black-tailed Godwit throughout their annual cycle.

In cooperation with University of Groningen the first 10 birds were tagged with satellite transmitters in spring 2018 (by Mo Verhoeven and Jelle Loonstra, working group of Theunis Piersma). Several more shall be tagged in the following years. Main questions for “following” birds from Lower Saxony are:

  • movement and dispersal of birds during and outside the breeding season, especially local dispersal of just fledged juveniles
  • returning rates of adults and juveniles
  • exchange with other populations in Germany and Europe
  • localization of staging and stop-over-sites
  • migration routes of Black-tailed Godwits (adult and juveniles)

Besides enhancing knowledge in breeding grounds this information is helpful for analyzing and assessing the ecological conditions and changes of habitats during migration in winter and for achieving benefits in conservation: What and where are the bottle-necks for successful migration? What are the perspectives for the migrating and wintering birds? What can be done outside the breeding range to improve the conservation status?



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