Conducting research with Harris’ Hawks

The Trust is currently hosting student Anika Preuss who is researching the effect of fitting data loggers to birds for the purpose of research.

As part of her BSc in Biology at Münster University in Germany, Anika is doing an internship with Roehampton University which involves collecting data at the Trust. The project Anika is working on is looking at the effects of data loggers on the movement and manoeuvrability of Harris’ Hawks, by testing different weights in proportion to the weight of the birds. Data loggers are used for research purposes and can record a wide range of data. They are fitted to birds using a harness with a back pack and are usually used to record movements including GPS positions.

Here Anika is filming the flights of Phoebe (Harris’ Hawk), who is fitted with an empty harness. She is checking the wind speed and direction, and will then analyse the video to see how Phoebe’s flight pattern might be affected by wearing the harness. Anika will then add weights to the harness to measure the effects of the additional load on the flight and movement of the birds.

In order to conduct ethical research, it is imperative that the data loggers do not have any effect on the birds’ natural activities, so they are still able to move about as they usually would, and are able to chase, catch and eat prey normally. This research gives us information on the maximum weight a Harris Hawk can carry with no detrimental effects so it is essential for informing scientists on safe weights of data loggers for certain birds.

Anika will be collecting data for the next few weeks so you might be lucky enough to spot her with her camera and tripod at the Harris’ Hawk Flying Arena when you are visiting the Trust!


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