Local researchers map Chinese sparrowhawk migration

Researchers in Taiwan have for the first time successfully tracked the migration cycle of the Chinese sparrowhawk using GPS transmitters, the Kenting National Park Headquarters in southern Taiwan announced recently, highlighting the nation's efforts to employ advanced technologies in promoting animal conservation.

Launched in April last year by the park in cooperation with the Raptor Research Group of Taiwan, the project involved placing solar-powered satellite transmitters on six of the birds with the aim of uncovering their local habitats and travel patterns throughout the region as well as furthering conservation initiatives. Chinese sparrowhawks form the largest group of migratory birds sighted in Taiwan, though their numbers have been declining in recent years.

According to the RRGT, results collected to date reveal six routes used by the Chinese sparrowhawks. These are between Taiwan and areas of Indonesia, the Philippines and Shandong province in northeastern mainland China. Researchers plan to build on their initial success by placing trackers on a further six birds later this year.

In addition to the routes, data garnered by the transmitters disclose the birds' nesting and mating locations. These data are expected to serve as valuable reference material for future studies of Chinese sparrowhawk migratory patterns and roosting behavior.

The RRGT said the identification of the birds' preferred habitats will prove crucial in guiding conservation efforts. This information is particularly significant as the raptors require abundant and stable food supplies to complete their annual migrations, it added.

The park headquarters noted that it has been monitoring the birds since its establishment in 1984, and the findings highlight the importance of forestry conservation initiatives. Taiwan has stepped up efforts to protect mountain ecosystems in recent years as numerous kinds of endemic species such as leopard cats reside in these areas.

The National Freeway Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, for instance, launched a long-term nationwide initiative in 2014 to rehabilitate ecosystems around major roads in foothill areas. Under this program, the bureau is working to build pathways that reconnect ecosystems divided by construction projects and maintain vegetation in lands surrounding freeways.

Chinese sparrowhawks, or Accipiter soloensis, breed in southeastern mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea and Siberia, winter in Indonesia and the Philippines, and pass through other areas of Southeast Asia during their annual migration. An estimated 127,495 of the birds visited Taiwan last year, according to the Kenting National Park Headquarters, down from about 180,000 in 2006.

Source: Taiwan Today