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Pacific Golden-plover Satellite Tracking


This project is proudly sponsored by the Port of Brisbane and Queensland Wader Study Group who have provided the funding, resources and manpower required to make this project possible.

In 2016 four, 5 gramme satellite transmitters, or PTT’s as they are more correctly known, were purchased from Microwave Telemetry with the intention of studying the migration routes of Pacific Golden-plover between their non-breeding grounds in Australia and their Arctic breeding grounds.

On the 29th December 2016 at Manly, the first two were fitted to a couple of adult Pacific Golden-plover, caught during a shorebird mist-netting session. The remaining two devices will be fitted to Golden-plover at the Port of Brisbane with catching dates between now and March being scheduled to achieve his objective.

The devices sit on the birds back, and are held in place using a leg loop harness. The objective is that the device will produce data on how the birds forage and range locally within Moreton Bay and then provide new information on the northward and southward migration strategies and breeding locations for Pacific Golden-plover that spend their non-breeding season in Queensland. The devices transmit in 10 hour blocks, with a 48 hour rest period during which they recharge their batteries using a small solar panel. The devices last up to two years until the harness degrades and they fall off the birds.

Both birds are well, healthy and foraging normally and both devices are transmitting as expected and providing data on the foraging behaviour of both individuals. The following maps provide information on the Manly birds movements around Moreton Bay, green points are accurate to 250m, blue to 500m, brown to 1000m and red are unspecified accuracy.

Maps will be updated regularly and weekly during the birds migration. If you’ve any questions please get in touch by contacting Jon at

21st June 2017

Well, the PTT continued transmitting on the southern side of Gareloi Island until the 8th June and then stopped. So we know our bird (and likely the other two) were headed to Alaska but we didn’t quite find out the actual breeding grounds. However, we learnt a lot about a poorly understood species. We learnt about their roost site fidelity and feeding behaviour on Moreton Bay including some things we didn’t know about their night time behaviour, such as using golf courses at night. We also learnt that putting transmitters on late in the season as the birds fatten may well result in the transmitters falling off when they migrate which is probably why only one bird transmitted all the way to Alaska. Migration was not in line with our usual shorebird migrations with the birds travelling over the Pacific to Japan, avoiding the more normal Yellow Sea staging grounds and we’ve learnt that in Japan they rely very heavily on agricultural land and not the foreshore which may well explain why we have virtually no resightings of these birds away from Australia. Finally, I think we established that at least some of our Pacific Golden Plover breed in Alaska. So all up, we didn’t achieve all our objectives but we achieved a lot of them, and learnt a lot in the process which will help us as we move into follow-on work on Whimbrel and Eastern Curlew in the coming season. Thank you to everyone involved, next step is to write up the findings and publish them and when we do that we’ll post a link on the site so everyone can read the outputs.

3rd June 2017

On 31st May DAA made landfall again, this time in Alaska, on Gareloi Island in the Aleutian Island chain confirming our suspicions of where Queensland Pacific-golden Plover may go to breed. Over the next few days it will become apparent whether the bird has arrived at its destination or is heading even further North and East. There is an updated map of the birds track to date below along with a detailed map of locations so far on the island and a picture of the island from Google showing what an incredible and remote place this bird has reached.

DAA Migration track, 29th April to 3rd June 2017

DAA Local movements on Gareloi Island

Gareloi Island (Photo from Google)

29th May 2017

DAA spent a few days in Fuji province before relocating to a site just north of Tokyo and then North to the coast where the bird spent several days in an agricultural area, presumably fattening up before heading on the final migration leg.

This morning DAA was heading away from Japan across the north Pacific. The big question now is will the bird swing north to Kamchatka and up into Siberia, or continue on its current track to make landfall in Alaska. WE will hopefully know within the next 24 hours.

DAA’s movements from mid-July to the 29th July

15th May 2017

DAA remained in Guam until the 12th May when it was recorded flying North. DAA made landfall in Japan, in Fuji province on the 14th May and is moving around on the coastline there presumably feeding.

Unfortunately the transmitters on BHM and BSA have stopped transmitting, our working theory being that they have become loose and dropped off as the birds lost body mass on the initial flight north. We were concerned about this occurring when we fitted the units as the birds were already fattening when we caught them so next time, we fit the devices early in the season! Lets hope DAA makes it all the way to the breeding grounds and back to give us that full migration track. Fingers crossed and who knows where DAA will head next!

Movements of all three satellite tracked Pacific Golden Plover

6th May 2017

All three birds have left Australia! DAA left us on either the 26th or 27th April and flew north to Guam where it has remained from the 2nd to the 6th May, presumably feeding up before the next migration leg. The transmitter is still working well, delivering multiple fixes during its 10 hour on cycle.

BSA also left in late April flying past the east coast of New Guinea on the 29th April. The transmitter is not giving regular fixes but the bird the appears to have taken a more westerly cause than DAA heading towards Palau. The last fix was on the 3rd May 500km East of Palau.

BHM took a similar route to BSA but has headed south towards New Guinea, on the 5th May the bird was 180km of the coast so we await more information when the transmitter switches on again.

More updates will be provided soon, as we get more data and some maps of the routes so far are below.

BHM Movements to 5th May 2017

BSA movements to 5th May 2017

DAA movements to 5th May 2017



The birds have still not left as of the 23rd April and unfortunately on the 10th April the transmitter on DAB stopped working after being stationary near Kawana Road wetlands for a couple of weeks. Either the transmitter has fallen off or something has happened to DAB so any sightings of DAB would be gratefully received, particularly if they are post the 10th April.

The other three transmitters are still working well and providing good information on local movements. DAA continues to use the Manly and Wynnum areas during the day and visits the Royal Brisbane Golf course on occasions overnight. BHM is very parochial remaining in the Wynnum-Manly area and BSA is favouring the Wellington Point area so all three are behaving slightly differently and favouring different areas.

Maps for the three transmitting birds are below.

BHM-April-2017 locations

BSA April 2017 locations

DAA April 2017 locations


Today we went back to Manly to try and attach the final two transmitters, the catch site at the Port being unusable due to the tide height. After a couple of hours moving birds towards the nets we finally had a catch of 22 Lesser Sandplover, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 2 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, 148 Red-necked Stint and 11 Pacific Golden plover, which  included recaptures of DAA and DAB who were looking well and were heavier than when we first caught them to fit their transmitters. We fitted the remaining two transmitters onto two heavy birds coming into breeding plumage, their leg flags are BHM and BSA. Both flew away strongly so fingers crossed they keep their transmitters on and we have four birds to monitor as they migrate northwards.

BHM having its transmitter fitted


Not too much change in the last month with the birds still mainly using the Manly and Wynnum areas for feeding and roosting. There are still regular forays to the Royal Queensland Golf club by both birds and also movements further north to the Port and airport shorelines. However, in a mist-net catch at Manly the three Pacific Golden Plover in the catch were noticeably fatter and heavier than normal so the bird are preparing for their migration now. So things will start to get interesting soon! On March 12th we will be going back to the Port of Brisbane in an attempt to fit the last two devices and I’ll provide an update on that if we are successful. A prior attempt in February was unsuccessful with the birds totally outwitting us and no birds caught at all, hopefully we have better luck this time. The maps for the two birds are shown below:-


Locations recorded for bird DAA 22/01/2017 to 03/03/2017






Locations recorded for bird DAB 22/01/2017 to 03/03/2017


We now have nearly a full month of data for both birds. Its a great sense of relief to know that both transmitters are still attached and that the birds are going about their business as normal with a number of visual sightings of the birds and a photograph taken at the Manly roost of one of the birds at high tide.

The birds are both behaving quite differently from each other. DAA has remained very parochial with almost all movements local to the Manly and Wynnum area. DAB on the other hand has been far more mobile. After initially remaining in the Manly/Wynnum area this bird was then recorded on a number of occasions including two consecutive nights on the Royal Queensland Golf Clubs, returning to Manly/Wynnum during the day. The bird now appears to be favouring the Port of Brisbane with several records there on the 18th January and also on the 24th January (not included on these maps).

Why the two birds should behave so differently is unclear and part of the fascination of looking at the detail these devices give, and the insights into the variability in the behaviour of individuals. We will be trying to put the other two devices on Pacific Golden-plover at the Port of Brisbane on the 4th February and I’ll provide an update on how that went in the February summary.

Locations recorded for bird DAA 06/01/2017 to 22/01/2017

Locations recorded for bird DAB 06/01/2017 to 22/01/2017


The maps below show the initial tracks for both birds showing how parochial they are to their roost site at Manly and the Wynnum foreshore area, at least in their first few days after being caught and tagged.



Locations recorded for bird DAA 29/12/2016 to 06/01/2017



Locations recorded for bird DAB 29/12/2016 to 06/01/2017