Our team attaches satellite transmitters to Great Bustards using custom-fitted backpack-style harnesses. The capture process is streamlined and fast, lasting only 15-20 minutes. These transmitters relay detailed information about our bustards' locations through a satellite connection, allowing our team to collect high-resolution movement data without frequently disturbing these incredibly wary birds. Learn about bustards we have tagged.

We use this data to determine conservation parameters for these populations. Our master's student B. Dashnyam visits sites frequently used by Great Bustards to investigate habitat requirements on their breeding grounds. We are able to monitor these birds as they travel long-distance, on their annual migration. And the transmitters also notify us of the death of the Great Bustard, which we investigate to determine causes of mortality.

These transmitters have allowed our team to make several important preliminary findings on Mongolian populations of Great Bustards. Notably, we have found migratory routes twice as long as have previously been recorded for this species! We have also identified poaching as a key threat to the species in this region.

We share these findings with conservation organizations, government agencies and academic groups in order to advance the conservation of this species. We also engage in a "two-way" exchange of information with local people through both formal and informal programs.

New Publications on Great Bustards in Asia

We proudly present a paper (.pdf) summarizing the historical and present status of Great Bustards in Central Asia, and the threats they face today. Also: M. Kessler's doctoral dissertation (.pdf) on the eastern subspecies of Great Bustard. June 2015

 

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

 

Presentations at SCB-Asia

Our team will make two symposium presentations at the Society for Conservation Biology - Asia conference this August. The first presentation, "Mongolia or Bustard!" will highlight our findings on the migratory habits of Asian Great Bustards. In the second presentation, "Steppe by Steppe," we will discuss our perspectives on the importance of community engagement and long-term research for the conservation of both Great Bustards and Taimen. Colleagues attending the meeting are invited to stop by our presentations, and get in touch! August 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

 

History of Migration Research

A cute animated video on the history of study of bird migration, and the techniques that are used. We've made our contribution to this century-old field of research through our use of satellite-GPS telemetry. GPS provides more detailed data on the bird's location, allowing us to study the fine-scale habitat preferences of Great Bustards. August 2013

 

Research paper selected as "Editor's Choice"

Our team's article on the migratory routes of Mongolian Great Bustards was recognized for outstanding merit by the editor of the Journal of Avian Biology. Download it, or contact us for a copy, to learn more about the migratory routes of Nergui, Ulaana and Songuul'! August 2013

 

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

 

Research published in Journal of Avian Biology

Our team's satellite telemetry research has revealed that Mongolian Great Bustards make long-distance migrations, twice as far as has been identified in any other population of Great Bustard. We are happy to announce the publication of that finding in the scientific journal, Journal of Avian Biology. Contact us if you are interested in obtaining a copy of the publication. March 2013

 

Nergui Begins Spring Migration

Our team's longest-tagged bustard, Nergui, has begun her northward, spring migration from her wintering grounds in Shaanxi Province, China! March 2013

 

Watch "Mongolian Myth Bustards!"

Check out the 5-minute video collaborator V. Cox has put together to acquaint English-speaking audiences with our conservation research and outreach program. Watch our project team at work and see footage of bustards we monitor using satellite transmitters! January 2013

 

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

The bustards we are monitoring 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

 


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Notes from Previous Field Seasons: