Protected Wood Grouse to receive radio transmitters 23.04

The large-scale research project, being conducted by Estonian researchers in order to better protect the Wood Grouse, has moved from the preparatory stage to the forest among the birds. To provide a better overview of how the increasingly rare birds use their habitat, Wood Grouse will be equipped with radio transmitters this spring.
The complex research, carried out in cooperation between the University of Tartu, the Estonian University of Life Sciences, and the Estonian Ornithological Society, and financed by RMK, is comprised of three parts: telemetry research, predator survey and restoration research. According to Asko Lõhmus, head of the research project, the aim is to determine why the number of Wood Grouse in Estonia is constantly decreasing despite them being under strict protection, and how to stop or improve the situation. “Presumably, the project will also provide a broader picture on other rare and endangered species sharing their habitat with the Wood Grouse,” added Lõhmus. 

 In the telemetry research, Wood Grouse cocks and hens will be marked with radio transmitters. “Analysing the routes of movement of the birds should provide more precise information on the habitats Wood Grouse occupy during different seasons,” describes Ivar Ojaste, expert from the ornithological society, who is conducting the telemetry research. “The first Wood Grouse hen was captured and given a radio transmitter right before Easter, on 17 April, in Soomaa.” The aim is to monitor up to 16 birds in a similar manner.  

At the same time, researchers from the University of Tartu will carry out the predator survey, gathering information on whether wild boars and other predators are converging around Wood Grouse habitats and in what way they actually endanger the birds. The survey will analyse the excrements of wild boar and other predators, utilising the genetic information contained therein to identify the species of animal and the species of bird eaten.

The restoration research will focus on the effects of cutting and drainage on the Wood Grouse and involves an experiment attempting to change the conditions of the habitat in areas surrounding known courting spots, and trying to restore their proper habitats. Three types of cutting and water regime restoration systems will be researched to determine which method of restoration – if any – is optimal for the Wood Grouse. Cutting works will begin this autumn. The background research is conducted by researchers from the University of Tartu and the Estonian University of Life Sciences.

The Wood Grouse is one of the most regal birds in Estonia, whose numbers have decreased significantly over the past few decades regardless of their strict protection and the establishing of extensive protected areas. According to the most recent data available, there are 1,100–1,200 courting male Wood Grouse left in the Estonian Wood Grouse population. When compared to the 1960s, the decrease in numbers has been more than fivefold, based on which it is estimated that the species will become extinct in Estonia during this century.

The research project is financed by RMK in the sum of EUR 308,576 and the project manager is Asko Lõhmus from the University of Tartu. RMK began targeted support for research work in 2008, when it convened a research council comprised of top researchers and initiated financing of applied research projects that support sustainable forestry and nature conservation. In the years 2008–2014, EUR 1.3 million has been allocated to scientific research, with 11 research projects having already received support. 

 Further information:
Asko Lõhmus Research project head,
University of Tartu
Tel: 529 2015

Ivar Ojaste Expert at the Estonian Ornithological Society
Tel: 521 5151