The history of Track a Gannet (T.A.G.)

In 2015 Alderney Wildlife Trust started an exciting project to help give us an amazing insight into the lives of our Northern Gannets, T.A.G. - Track a Gannet. We fitted miniature GPS tracking devices that use the mobile phone network to transmit the positions of the gannets, monitoring their daily movements.

gannet, seabird, tracking, tag, ornithology

Alderney’s Northern Gannet colonies are the second most southerly in the world and support around 1% of the species’ population. With many offshore wind farm sites proposed within the English Channel and with the possibility of tidal turbines being deployed in Alderney’s waters, it is more important than ever for us to understand where these magnificent birds are feeding. The information gained from the tags gave an unprecedented picture of the gannets’ life-cycle, feeding habits and the likelihood of their interaction with potential offshore wind farms and tidal developments.

To do this the AWT raises funds every year to purchase state-of-the-art experimental miniaturised GPS tracking devices which were placed on the birds' tail feathers by a team of scientists from the British Trust for Ornithology, Liverpool University and the AWT. The tags last around six weeks, which is ideal as we do not want these devices permanently attached to the birds.

Gannets can fly several hundred kilometres in a single foraging trip. In 2015 the maximum distance we recorded for a single trip was over 800km - that's past Canterbury. But this was dwarfed by Cosmo's trip in 2016, almost to Norway and back in under a week. This is a round trip of over 1700km and a new record for the species!

All the tracks are presented live on an online interactive map. Each Gannet tagged can be individually viewed online, displaying details about the Gannet and its sponsors.

We are working alongside the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the UKs leading bird science organisation, who are experts in tracking wildlife and this project is run in a similar format to their Cuckoo Project. The data will also feed into the project run by the University of Liverpool together with AWT and BTO which is looking at the potential impacts of renewable energy for Alderney’s important seabird colonies.

Did you know...

  • Gannets feed on shoaling fish such as herring and mackerel
  • They capture prey by plunge diving and have a diving depth of around 22m
  • Gannets can reach 100km/h when plunge diving for prey!
  • The average life span of a Northern Gannet is about 17 years but the record for the oldest is 37 years.
  • Gannets are the largest European seabird weighing on average 3kg with a wing span up to 190cm!

This is a very exciting project but we cannot  learn more about these iconic birds without  your help!

For information on how to sponsor a gannet please click here or email peopleandwildlife@alderneywildlife.org

Thank you to all our T.A.G. sponsors, we couldn't do it without you!

You can sign up for newsletter updates on the T.A.G. by donating to the project, for more information please get in touch: peopleandwildlife@alderneywildlife.org