Mature male red goshawk keeping watch near a nest
The richly marked male red goshawk is much smaller and half the weight of the female. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

Satellite tracking of endangered raptor a partial success

Natural Images has been wondering what happened to the critically endangered red goshawks involved in what the Queensland Government has described as a ‘world first’ satellite-based study of this rare and elusive raptor.

We have received reports from birding experts familiar with the Cape York-based project that the study birds – including a mature female fitted with a transmitter – may have perished.

Natural Images approached the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) for comment on the Rio Tinto-sponsored tracking project to find out more about the elusive raptor, and the news is a mix of good and bad.

A DEHP spokesperson confirmed in mid-February that two of the birds had been ‘bow netted’ for the study: an adult female (pictured below) caught in September 2015 and a fledgling female from the same nest in January 2016. Both were captured in the Weipa region of Cape York.

GPS satellite transmitters were attached to both birds via a ‘backpack’ harness.

Scientists with transmitter-carrying red goshawk
Queensland EHP scientists and a Rio Tinto representative with a female red goshawk netted near Weipa. Photo: EHP

So where are they now? The DEHP spokesperson says the transmitter on the adult female “failed due to technical issues” after being tracked for three months. But the movements of the juvenile female are still being tracked after more than 12 months.

Whether or not the adult bird is still alive is anyone’s guess, but the department says understanding the movements of the red goshawk in relation to their surroundings is “vital to developing management actions suitable to protect them”.

Adults range wide area

Preliminary results indicate an adult home-range of nearly 300 square km, and that juveniles can disperse as far as 370 km from the nest.

Young red goshawk with parent at nest
The female ‘chick’ (left) is already much bigger than her father. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

The DEHP says more birds need to be tracked before suitable management actions can be developed. “But the study has already succeeded in proving the efficacy of this tracking technique, opening the door to a previously [unaffordable] understanding of this spectacular, highly secretive threatened bird.”

Surveillance of the younger bird is scheduled to end in January 2018 when her transmitter harness deliberately ‘degrades’ and falls off.

The red goshawk is a large, reddish-brown hawk with strongly streaked and barred plumage, massive yellow legs and feet, and a slight crest. The male is about 50 cm long and weighs about half that of the 60 cm female.

Email: tonywneilson@icloud.com

©Natural Images 2017

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