Waterbird color marking

Since 2006, Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia, along with its partners, have color-marked a large number of waterbirds including bar-headed goose Anser indicus, swan goose Anser cygnoides, whooper swans Cygnus cygnus in central, western, and eastern Mongolia.

The project is an important part of the major effort to understand Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus prevalence in wild birds and disease transmission among waterfowl populations in Mongolia. As many of you know, Mongolia has suffered several HPAI outbreaks, specifically of H5N1 subtype among wild birds from 2004 to 2005. Also, these same species have been satellite-marked and tracked from Mongolia.

In July and August 2010, our project successfully captured and color-marked a total of 80 whooper swans and 115 bar-headed geese with neck collars and leg rings, and an additional 101 bar-headed geese and other 186 birds belonging to 43 species were fitted with leg rings. All birds captured were sampled for avian influenza. The samples are being analyzed in laboratories.

With this project activity, we hope that these marked birds will help us to better understand wild bird migration, stopover sites, population connectivity, and the preferred wintering grounds for these species.

The whooper swans were marked with blue neck collars with four digit letter-number code and the bar-headed geese have green neck collars with three digit letter-number code. The color and codes of neck collars for these birds were coordinated with Wetlands International’s Swan Research Group and Asia-Pacific Working Group on Migratory Birds and Avian Influenza, and several waterfowl research groups working in Mongolia and East Asia.

Bird found - exciting news from India

Several bar-headed geese Anser indicus that were color marked in central Mongolia by our research team have been observed in India. So far we have received 8 re-sightings of neck collared birds associated with 5 locations in India thanks to Indian colleagues and birdwatchers. Interestingly, 6 of those birds were captured and marked on the same day at one location in 2009. But re-sighting locations were spread in western India. One of the birds photographed by Indian birdwatchers in Bhigwan, Pune province was a bird marked at Deed Ulaan Lake (Doroo Tsagaan Lake) in July 2009. This was the site of an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) was recorded in same period. The outbreak claimed the lives of more than several dozens of ducks, geese, and other wild birds.

The bar-headed goose marking project is part of a multi-year project implemented by the United Nations-FAO, the US Geological Survey (Western Ecological Research Center, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, and Alaska Science Center), the University of Wales Bangor in UK, the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center, and the Institute of Biology at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences to study disease ecology and migration of bar-headed geese in western Mongolia. The team also color marked swan geese and whooper swans in eastern Mongolia and studied their migration using satellite technology.

Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake National Park is the capture location. All birds were captured during the short post-breeding moult period when adults were flightless. We have marked bar-headed geese for last two years and more will be banded in 2010. In 2008, 23 Barheaded Geese were marked with GPS satellite transmitters and 39 with GPS tracking loggers to study their migratory routes. In addition, 113 bar-headed geese and 38 swan geese were ringed and color marked with green and white neck collars or leg bands.

In 2009, we successfully captured 215 adult bar-headed geese and an additional 58 goslings. We banded 165 adults, marked 156 with neck collars, fitted 15 with satellite transmitters, surgically implanted heart rate loggers in 38, and deployed backpack mounted GPS loggers (or ‘track tags’) on 23 birds.

Any person observing a color-marked bird is requested to contact Dr. Tseveenmyadag Natsagdorj tseveenmyadag@magicnet.mn, Nyambayar Batbayar info@wscc.org.mn (Mongolia) or Dr. Taej Mundkur taej.mundkur@wetlands.org (Asia and India) with information on the location and date of observations, color and number of the band, as well as other bird species (and numbers) observed with the marked bird. Photographs of marked birds would also be appreciated.

For more information, please visit a the USGS website to find out more about the bar-headed geese, swan geese, and whooper swan migration from Mongolia as revealed by satellite tracking (click here). Also please visit, the FAO’s website (click here) to learn more about how this project aims to help understand the movement of HPAI and visit the Wetlands International’s website on flyway and bird banding to learn more about the color marking scheme in Asia (click here).

© 2010 WSCC