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                   GPS GSM tracking of a white-tailed sea eagle
                           (Haliaeetus albicillia) in Germany

last update: 11/01/2004

by Oliver Krone
Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research


The Project:

Because of the successful pilot project with GPS tracking of a white-tailed sea eagle in 2003, we started a larger project with the newest available tracking technology: locating the bird via the Global Positioning System and transmission of the data continuously via the mobile phone system (GSM) directly to our office.

Until today the tracking investigations on large birds of prey are nearly almost done with the Argos system. Depending on the classes of location, the accuracy of the Argos locations is < 150 m and > 1000 m.

The combination of GPS and GSM delivers location accuracy of about 15 m (mean value) on a two way communication link.

In this project a group of eagles will be intensively observed using telemetry over a period of four years, to get information about the turnover in the population and to compare the causes of death in this group with the results from post mortem examinations. Furthermore the home range of the eagles will be examined. The results will be used for the protection and conservation of this species.




Fig. 1:  Location of the investigation areas in Germany (red symbols)















Fig. 2: White-tailed sea eagles in the eyrie

We used Teflon-treated ribbons to fit the 170 g light weight GPS-GSM devices (figure 2) on the back of the eagles (figure 2 and 3). The GPS-GSM unit is equiped with activity and temperatur sensors and a traditionall VHF-beacon. The GPS location data are continously transmitted via the mobile phone system (GSM) to our groundstation in Berlin. In four areas (figure 1), 6 nestlings, two 1.5 year old and one adult white-tailed sea eagle have been equiped with GPS-GSM harnesses.


Fig. 3: Young white-tailed eagle with the GPS-GSM harness
Photo: N. Kenntner













In figure 4 the movements of the 1.5 year old female sea eagle are presented. The GPS fix schedule has been set to one fix per day in order to save batteries and prolong the tracking period up to 4 years.

Fig. 4: Location positions of the white-tailed eagle, from August 5 - October 25, 2004,
last position = yellow symbol



For more information please contact:

Dr Oliver Krone

Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research
P.O. Box 601103
D-10252 Berlin
fax: +49-30-5126104
phone: +49-30-5168405