Home / Specials / Science /  Tracking the flight of the Amur falcon

New Delhi: The longest an airplane can fly non-stop is 16 hours.

There’s another flight, being monitored by conservationists, that’s even longer—Naga, a male Amur falcon, weighing just 179 grams (g) flew from Nagaland to Somalia in eastern Africa in November, crossing India and the Arabian Sea, for five days and 10 hours non-stop, covering a distance of 5,600km.

The details of Naga’s long-haul flight have come courtesy an ambitious conservation project which tracks by satellite telemetry three Amur falcons—among an estimated half-a-million which arrive at their annual roosting site in Nagaland during October-November, from their breeding grounds in eastern Russia, China and Mongolia.

In 2012, thousands of Amur falcons were found to have been trapped by villagers in Wokha district of Nagaland for their meat and for commercial trade. This led to a global campaign and the launch of a conservation project named the Amur Falcon Partnership, which aimed to make locals aware of the importance of providing the falcons a safe passage during their brief stay in Nagaland.

The tracking project was devised for long-term conservation, to give conservationists an insight into the astounding ability of these falcons to fly halfway across the globe every year. This would make locals aware of how unique these birds are.

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Naga’s journey from Nagaland to South Africa.


Don’t the satellite transmitters hinder the flight of the falcons?

No. The transmitters weigh just 5g and are fitted like a backpack on the falcons using a specially made Teflon harness.

What are the components of the Platform transmitter terminal (PTT) device?

The 5g PTT has a transmitter, a rechargeable battery and solar cells. Use of solar power allows the use of smaller batteries, making the device lightweight.

How much do PTTs cost?

Made by US-based Microwave Telemetry Inc. they cost $3,450 each.

Why don’t we use GPS (global positioning system) trackers?

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The PTT tracking device fitted on the falcon transmits signals which are picked up by Argos satellites.

lAre only birds tracked this way?

About 4,500 birds, 2,000 terrestrial animals and over 800 turtles migrating across oceans are tracked regularly by the Argos satellite system. The locations of the Amur falcons and several other birds can be tracked daily by anyone on the website

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