Highlands & Islands

Behaviour of gannets captured by mobile phone technology

Gannets Image copyright Gareth Easton

Ecologists have discovered the habits of young seabirds for the first time by using mobile phone technology.

The study by an expert at the University of Glasgow will be presented at the British Ecological Society annual meeting in Edinburgh.

Dr Jana Jeglinski's work studied where juvenile northern gannets travel before they settle down to breed.

It concluded the seabirds travel to several different colonies before deciding where to breed as adults.

It is now hoped the results of the study will help seabird conservation.

Dr Jeglinski said: "Juvenile behaviour and ecology is a real frontier - we have almost no information on the ecology, behaviour and movement of young animals in general and seabirds in particular.

"Young gannets are roaming the seas between Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, the UK, Denmark and Norway - and even down the West African coast. Using GPS mobile phone tags is the only method that makes sense for tracking their unpredictable, large-scale movements with high precision"

Dr Jeglinski believes understanding where these young seabirds travel, and the role they play in linking single colonies into a network, could help protect seabird breeding populations better.

Together with colleagues from Exeter, Leeds and Kiel, Dr Jeglinski's team tagged 30 young birds from three different colonies - Bass Rock, Grassholm off the Pembrokeshire coast and Heligoland in Germany - with a tag fitted with a SIM card to communicate with the mobile phone network worldwide.

Over the two months of the study, some birds were found to have flown about 9,693 miles (15,600km).

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