GBG successfully reintroduced the Great Bustard in the UK! However, funding is needed so we can purchase a tracking system to monitor the birds that have been released.
About the Project
The Great Bustard Group is a registered charity dedicated to the reintroduction of the Great Bustard bird to the UK. 2014 saw the greatest number of birds managed and released, and also the best survival rate so far. The project has a positive future and is building on the small Great Bustard population already established. It is essential to monitor the movements of the young Great Bustards after release as they often disperse away from the release site during the first winter. Financial support is needed so we can implement an effective and reliable tracking system for the released birds.
The GBG is working hard to reintroduce the Great Bustard to the UK and provide conditions where the birds are able to form a self sustaining population. Formed in 1998, the Great Bustard Group has been working to promote the interests of the Great Bustard throughout its range, undertaking work in the UK, as well as participating in Bustard conservation activities in Russia, Spain and China.
The Great Bustard became extinct as a breeding bird in the UK in the 1830s. The habits of early ornithologists by collecting specimens and eggs, along with changes in agriculture and land use, all contributed to the extinction. It is not just the UK who have suffered, as numbers of the Great Bustard declined across the globe.
From 2004 to 2012 the GBG operated an egg rescue programme in Russia. Eggs were rescued from nests destroyed by agriculture, and the chicks reared from these eggs were released in both the UK and in Russia. A pioneering genetic study undertaken in 2012 showed that the Spanish Great Bustards provided the closest match to the DNA extracted from old museum specimens of the original English birds. Spain has the largest Great Bustard population in the world, and it is increasing. The first Spanish birds were released 2014. 33 birds were released and a survival rate of over 50% through the first winter is over double the survival rate which may be expected in a natural population.
Why are tracking devices essential to our project?
Releasing the Great Bustards in the UK, seeing the population begin to grow, and then produce it's own young is incredibly rewarding. However, there are still unanswered questions about the dispersal of the released birds in their first winter - where to they go, and what happen to the birds which do not survive the first year? Without tracking devices it is extremely difficult to monitor the dispersal of the species, which can take them across the whole of southern England, and even to the Channel Islands. Manual search techniques are expensive in terms of both material costs and staff time. The successful implementation of tracking devices is important and relevant to the overall success of this project. Being able to utilise an efficient monitoring system will enable us to understand the behaviour of the young birds and ensure they have the best chances of reaching adulthood. The information the tracking devices relay will be invaluable by providing real-time analysis of the movements and locations of the released Great Bustards.