Nergüi

Nergüi means "Nameless" in Mongolian, and it's a name given to children as a good-luck charm. If malevolent spirits can't locate a child with knowledge of their name, the child is safe from harm. Nergüi was the first bustard our team captured, and we wanted to make extra sure that she stayed safe from harm! So far, so good - she has been transmitting longer than any other bustard, and has sent data from six complete migrations to China.

 

Dölgöön

Dölgöön was captured in the fall of 2007 with her 3 lb chick on agricultural fields. (Great Bustard chicks may stay with their mothers for up to a year.) Noted for her calm temperament, Dölgöön's name means "quiet," or "peaceful." And her chick? "Don," making the pair's name, "Dölgöön Don," or "Quiet Don," the title of the famous Sholokhov novel. Months later, we investigated Dölgöön's death, partway along her migration to China, where she had been shot by a middle-class farmer. Don has not been seen since the death of his mother. We hope that by sharing information about the species' low reproductive rate and encouraging a sense of pride in this magnificent species, that people will take a second thought before taking aim.

 

bayan

A male bustard, Bayan displays remarkably different movement patterns than do the female bustards we monitor. In spring, Bayan remains on the traditional breeding grounds, performing his display morning and evening in the hopes of attracting the eye of one of the female bustards busy feeding, acquainting themselves with nesting sites, and preparing for egg-laying nearby.

 

Songuul'

Songuul', or "Election," was captured as Mongolia's capital was rocked by riots over disputed elections in 2008. This shy bustard has a penchant for long walks in fallow fields. We monitored Songuul' for three years before receiving news of her mortality on her wintering grunds in China. Her death was due to poisoning related to trade in wild meats.

 

Sondor

Sondor, or "Pendant," was named for lovely markings around her neck. Sondor died partway along her fall migration, in 2009. Investigations suggest that she was poached in a National Park.

 

Mendee

Mendee joined our team in summer 2011. To honor the teamwork involved in running our field camp and carrying out research, her name is composed of the initials of team members working at the time of her capture: Mimi, Erke, Natsag, Dorj and Dashka. (Mendee is also a Mongolian name meaning "healthy," or "fit as a fiddle" - which we hope she will be.) From what we've observed of her tracking data, she seems to be quite an exploratory bustard - venturing relatively far from her breeding site and spending time in unusual mountainous locales.

 

Tagged Bustards Die on Migratory Pathway

We are sad to report that tagged bustards Sachokchin and Mendee died on the migratory pathway. Mendee, whom we tagged in 2011, died in Inner Mongolia in China. Sachokchin, whom we tagged in 2010, died in Omnogovi Aimag of Southern Mongolia. We investigate the site of last transmission of all of our tagged bustards in order to study causes of adult mortality in Asian Great Bustards. All deaths of tagged bustards we have recorded have occurred on migratory stopovers or the wintering grounds. May 2015

 

Bustards on the move

Our tagged female bustards Sachokchin and Mendee have begun their journey south as the harsh Mongolian winter begins. Snow first fell in September! October 2014

 

Sachokchin incubating a second clutch

Through satellite telemetry, we have observed that after just a week's rest, Sachokchin laid a second clutch of eggs! She has now incubated them to term. Bustard chicks are precocial - they are able to walk alongside their mother (albeit slowly and with a bit of stumbling, as in this video from Britain!) shortly after hatching. We hope that Sachokchin's chicks will soon be accompanying her to forage on grasshoppers and beetles (agricultural pests!) in the wheat field in which they were hatched. July 2014

 

Sachokchin and Mendee lose their clutches

Sachokchin and Mendee, two of the female great bustards we're monitoring with satellite transmitter backpacks, are trying their best to raise a family at their breeding grounds in northern Mongolia. Satellite transmissions reveal that both birds incubated nests for about two weeks in early June - only to abandon them. This often happens when the nest is predated (by crows or foxes), or eggs are crushed by livestock or farm machinery. June 2014

 

Sachokchin and Mendee return to breeding grounds

Sachokchin, a Great Bustard tagged by our team in 2010, and Mendee, tagged in 2011, have successfully completed round-trip migrations to return to their breeding grounds in northern Mongolia! This is cause for celebration, as our research has found particularly high mortality for Asian Great Bustards during migration, when they face threats as diverse as hunting, collisions with power lines, and poisoning. May 2014

 

Nergui, Sachokchin, and Mendee Safely home!

We've been monitoring the movements of our tagged bustards with baited breath as they've migrated 2000 km (1200 miles) homeward from their wintering grounds in China. As we've posted before, we are finding that mortality on the migratory route - due in large part to hunting - is a problem for these populations of Great Bustard. We are happy to report that this spring our tagged birds have all arrived safely home to northern Mongolia, where we wish them success in nesting and raising chicks this summer! May 2013

 

Contribute to our RocketHub Campaign to Support Continued Tracking of These Bustards!

Stay tuned for the imminent launch of our team's RocketHub crowdsourcing campaign. Your contributions will help us to continue to receive transmissions from these tagged birds by helping with the expense of satellite data transmission fees. November 2012

 

Speedy Migrator!

Sachokchin has arrived at her wintering site in Shaanxi Province of China, after a journey lasting less than a week! Through our satellite tracking program, we have found that this journey is usually accomplished over a two-month timeframe, with multiple stopovers. Mendee, in the meantime, is on stopover at the Bayanur Oasis in Inner Mongolia, China. November 2012

 

Fall Migration Begins

Mendee is the first of the bustards we monitor to make a southward movement this fall - she's moved about 100 km southeast from her main breeding valley. October 2012

 

Public outrage over poaching of migratory birds

Last April, we reported our finding that one of our tracked bustards, Songuul', had been poisoned as part of the trade in illegal wild meats in China. We are happy to learn that the issue of poaching of migratory birds in China, which affects many species, is receiving attention, and has even been the subject of a documentary. October 2012

 

What our Bustards Did This Summer

Each of our tagged female bustards spent the summer in her own way. Mendee spent her summer months extensively exploring mountainous areas and clearings adjacent to her main breeding valley. Sachokchin incubated a clutch of eggs, but appears to have lost her chicks shortly after hatching. And after losing a clutch of eggs, Nergui went to the mountains for a period as well. Low rates of reproduction due to loss of eggs and chicks to predators (crows, foxes and wolves) and crushing by livestock and agricultural machinery is a major cause for concern across the Great Bustard's range. August 2012

 

Half-way home

Nergui, Mendee and Sachokchin have made it to the Bayanur oasis in Inner Mongolia - half-way from their wintering site in Chinato their breeding grounds in northern Mongolia April 2012

 

Bosoo Bustard Poached near Mining Site

Bosoo, one of the bustards whome we monitor via satellite telemetry, died on her migration south towards her wintering grounds. An investigation revealed that she had been poached near a mining site in south Gobi desert. Her transmitter was discarded not far from a road. January 2012

 

Nergui reaches her wintering grounds

Nergui, a female bustard we have been tracking since 2007, is the first of our tagged bustards to reach her wintering grounds in Central China this year. Temperatures at her wintering ground are currently 17 to 41°F (-6 to 5°C). Meanwhile, temperatures at her breeding grounds are -6 to 21°F (-21 to -6°C). December 2011

 

Two new bustards join our team

We've custom-fit backpack transmitters for two new female bustards: Bosoo and Mendee. We're looking forward to observing them on their fall migration. July 2011

 

Toson bustard Predated

En route to our field site we have investigated the death of one of the bustards we have been tracking. Feathers and bones were scattered about the site of death at a migratory stopover. Interviews with local families report an increased number of foxes following the previous winter's dzud (winter weather disaster). Dzud cause mass casualties of livestock, upon which predators then feed. May 2011

 

Songuul' - a Victim of the Wild Meat trade

Songuul', a bustard we have tracked for three years, died on her wintering grounds. An investigation located her transmitter, which had been discarded alongside a bowl and empty chemical vials. Local people spoke of "professionals" who visit the area to poison wild birds and sell the meat to "wild meats" restaurants. April 2011

 


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Notes from Previous Field Seasons: