Have satellite, will travel and luckily, will provide data. Mottled ducks along the Georgia coast are being outfitted with satellite transmitters in a new, cooperative research project between the University of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
“Mottled ducks are a relatively new species to the Georgia coast, only having been established here since the late 1990s,” said Greg Balkcom, State Waterfowl Biologist for the Wildlife Resources Division. “Their population is concentrated along the mouth of the Altamaha River, and has remained stable for several years, but we still don’t know enough about their habitat preferences and movement patterns to effectively manage coastal impoundments to meet their needs.”
By attaching small, satellite transmitters to the ducks, this project allows researchers to track their movements, no matter how far they go. The solar-powered transmitters collect several GPS locations per day for each duck, and electronically send that information back to researchers.
A combined team of Wildlife Resources Division staff and a graduate student from the University of Georgia attached the first transmitters to six mottled ducks in early August. Additional transmitters will be deployed throughout the fall of 2014.
Researchers will see where mottled ducks feed in the mornings, where they roost at night, and how their use of available wetlands and marshes changes throughout the year. With better understanding of the mottled duck’s movements, habitat use, and habitat needs, the agency can highlight important areas for conservation and tailor management schemes to create more usable habitat for mottled ducks along Georgia’s coast.
What if a mottled duck is taken during waterfowl season? No problem. Any hunter who harvests a mottled duck wearing a transmitter can call the number on the transmitter for instructions or return the transmitter to the local Wildlife Resources Division Game Management office in Brunswick (One Conservation Way, Brunswick, GA 31520, 912-262-3173).
· Photo: Mottled duck with solar-powered satellite transmitter attached (Credit: Robert Horam / GA WRD 2014).