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Implementing Patagial Tagging on Vultures in Southern Africa

Date: 2007-07-26


Bird ringing has been used in southern Africa for almost 60 years as a cost-effective method to study many aspects of the biology of a wide range of species, including raptors. The first birds to be ringed in South Africa were a group of 31 Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres)  nestlings at the Kranzberg colony in Limpopo in 1948.


The following aspects with regard to the biology of raptors can be obtained by the use of ringing and colour-marking:


• Local movements and dispersal patterns
• Migratory patterns and seasonality
• Survival rates and longevity
• Causes of mortalities and potential threats


What is Patagial Tagging?
Colour-marking a bird enables researchers to individually identify birds in the field after release. The colour-marking method that is currently in use for vultures is known as “patagial tagging”. Patagial tagging refers to the fitting of a plastic tag to the “patagium”, or frontal flap of skin to the wing of a bird and has been used worldwide with great success on a wide range of bird species, including vultures and condors in Europe and America.


What to do when you see a tagged vulture
The EWT-BoPWG will also rely on members of the public, landowners and reserve managers to report any of these birds that are re-sighted. Now is the time for you to get involved and enhance your next visit to an area, such as a nature reserve or vulture restaurant, where vultures occur! Because vultures regularly visit well-managed restaurants, these sites will play a vital role in contributing to our knowledge of bird movements by people reporting on birds re-sighted there.


Should a tagged bird be seen, the observer should record the following details:


• Date
• time,
• locality
• GPS coordinates (if possible)
• Species
• Habitat
• condition of the bird


Most importantly, the colour of the tag and its specific alpha-numeric code must be recorded as this will provide us with an exact idea of the area where the bird was tagged. Ideally, observers should also attempt to photograph the tagged bird and submit a low-resolution image (les than 100Kb) with their report. It is also important that the observer provide their name and contact details should we require further information.


Who should re-sightings and recoveries be reported to?
All relevant information can be reported to the South African Bird Ringing Unit (SAFRING) in Cape Town at telephone number +27 (0)21 650-2421/2 or safring@adu.uct.ac.za . Alternatively, you can also contact the Birds of Prey Working Group directly at +27 (0)11 646-4629 or andreb@ewt.org.za The Birds of Prey Working Group is also in the process of setting up a reporting facility via its website on www.ewt.org.za .


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