Tracking Nightingales to Africa

In spring 2009, jointly with the Swiss Ornithological Institute, ‘geolocators’ were attached to 20 Nightingales in the UK; these tiny devices, weighing just 1g, contain a clock and light sensor which make it possible to determine where in the world they are at any given time. (You can read more about the technology behind this project in the article 'Tagged' by Paul Stancliffe (PDF, 276.88 KB), written for Birdwatching magazine.)

In June 2010 one of these birds was recaught, allowing our scientists to download the data collected over the winter months. You can see the route below.

Map showing tracked Nightingales route

Soon after the bird began its return migration to the UK, the geolocator that it had carried for the previous ten months failed. The bird made it successfully back though, being caught fifty metres from where it was trapped.

Seven of the tagged birds were re-captured but the innovative tracking devices are at the cutting edge of technology and it came as no surprise that though 6 other Nightingales returned with geolocators, these failed at some point on the journey.

Since this amazing piece of research, the tiny tracking devices have improved still further, and halved in weight. As technology improves, increasing possibilities will be opened up to scientists to discover more about our migrating birds.