On 1st February 2020, we started fitting satellite trackers to tawaki that have just completed their moult.
Our main focus is to investigate where the birds that have moulted on the East coast of New Zealand’s South Island travel to different regions when compared to penguins that have completed the moult in the species’ breeding region, i.e. the West Coast and Fiordland.
Last season, we fitted two birds on the East coast with satellite trackers and found that both headed towards the southeast towards a sea region that is known to be relatively unproductive. Both birds stopped transmitting within three weeks of their departure from the mainland. One of them is likely to have died, probably due to starvation.
This study will address the question whether moulting on the East coast puts tawaki at a disadvantage.
The satellite trackers are programmed to transmit their position to Argos satellites for four hours before going to sleep for eight hours. The map is updated every 6-12 hours.
Note that if a bird stops transmitting, it is most likely due to the device falling off. Unlike in other studies, we have not glued to the devices to the penguins’ feathers. We decided that maintaining the birds feathery integrity was paramount.