UPDATE | 6/19/17: After months of planning and preparation, ACR’s Heron and Egret Telemetry Project has literally taken flight! ACR Avian Ecologists Scott Jennings and David Lumpkin and Conservation Science Director Dr. John Kelly spent an exciting eight days with collaborators Drs. John Brzorad and Alan Maccarone, who travelled from North Carolina and Kansas, respectively, to train us in capturing Great Egrets and outfitting them with tiny GPS transmitters. So far, we’ve tagged three Great Egrets, all at ACR’s Toms Point in northern Tomales Bay. The birds were captured and tagged simply and safely, and the tags are recording data on the birds’ locations and behaviors every five minutes. These data, which can be downloaded remotely, will unlock numerous mysteries about how herons and egrets use and depend on the wetland landscapes of the SF Bay and beyond. This is the first work of this kind on Great Egrets in the western United States. Follow project updates in our blog >
Revealing the Secret Lives of Herons and Egrets to Advance Five Decades of Conservation Research
ACR's new research and outreach program will inform wetland conservation efforts.
Wetlands provide crucial habitat for abundant wildlife and also benefit humans by filtering water, buffering us against floods, and providing a special place to enjoy nature. As top wetland predators, herons and egrets play an important role in maintaining wetland health. Their prevalence in these ecosystems makes them charismatic symbols for wetland conservation.
Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR) has spent more than 50 years as a leader in heron and egret research and regional conservation action. Now we’re expanding our study to include the interactions between these birds and their wetland ecosystems. This will provide science-based guidance for the protection of wetlands, the ways these systems enhance wildlife communities, and their importance in mitigating climate change impacts.
Deciphering heron and egret behavior
Beginning in spring 2017, ACR researchers will equip herons and egrets with miniature GPS tags to find out how individual birds interact with their environment. The tracking devices will show us what they need to survive and find food, where they spend the winter, and how far they travel to establish new nests.
Our investigations will follow foraging activities and the effect these birds may have on wetland food webs. These new results will be integrated with our long-term monitoring data to better understand the factors that shape heron and egret populations.
Get in on the nature tech
With electronic tracking we’ll be able to display the locations of GPS-tagged herons and egrets in near-real-time on any internet-connected device. Not just for the scientists, you’ll be able to watch the secret lives of these amazing birds unfold on your phone or computer.
We will use the GPS data to energize ACR’s successful and well-known education programs for children. Seeing the everyday movements and actions of herons and egrets will engage students and help them understand the birds’ ecological importance.
Through this research and outreach program we can address challenges in the conservation of Bay Area wetlands. Ultimately, the project will dramatically strengthen ACR’s scientific work on herons and egrets. The findings will inform regional conservation efforts and inspire generations of people to value these beautiful birds and the wetlands that sustain us.
For more information on the ACR Heron and Egret Telemetry Project, contact Scott Jennings, ACR Avian Ecologist, firstname.lastname@example.org
Further reading may be found in Research goals of the heron and egret telemetry project, (pdf) attached below.
- Evan Jenkins and Galen Leeds