Projects

European roller

Building and monitoring nest boxes of European Roller, an endangered bird species breeding in northern Lazio.

In 2009 we started a collaboration with Terna, the Italian distributor of electricity, to build and monitor nest boxes for Rollers (Coracias garrulus). We mounted over 70 nest boxes in Central Italy, and 30 in Emilia Romagna, in Northern Italy.
The results of the first 7 years can be found in this paper: Nest box selection and reproduction of European Rollers in Central Italy: a 7-year study
In 2018 we started to equip some rollers with lightweight GPS loggers (Technosmart Europe) in order to identify their foraging grounds, home ranges and their migration strategies.
The first data about the GPS tracking is summarized in this poster:
(GPS tracking of European rollers Coracias garrulus breeding in Central Italy)

At the moment, neary 20 pairs of peregrine falcons are breeding in Rome, many of them in artificial nests we have built. All these couples can be followed online from our website Birdcam.it where it is possible to follow the falcons in real time during all phases of breeding. In the last decades this species, once very endangered at a European level, has started an inurbation process, being attracted by the high numbers of starlings and pigeons living in our cities. Cities have indeed plenty of prey for peregrines, but are rather scarce of nesting sites, mainly because of human disturbance and lack of nesting niches. By providing this species with the resources that limit their population we have contributed to the enrichment of urban biodiversity.

Peregrine falcon

Since 2004 we are mounting artificial nests on high buildings in Rome and other italian cities, thus helping the recovering urban population of this raptor.

Webcams

Webcam installation and live broadcasting since 2004. Follow this project on www.birdcam.it

Birdcam.it has more than one million visits each year and is now the focal portal for wildlife webcams in Italy. In 2010 we hosted webcams on peregrine falcons, Eurasian kestrels, scops owls and European rollers, but the number of cams is increasing every year, and we are also hosting webcams not directly managed by us. Updated news on each nest can be followed on the birdcam forum, where visitors publish pictures and comments on the behaviours they observe every day.
This project is having a big success and is providing an exciting way to sensitize people to our wildlife, and to raise awareness about the conservation of our environment.

Thanks to the collaboration with Terna, the Italian electricity distributor, we installed over 350 artificial nest boxes for small raptors on powerlines in central and northern Italy. Most of the nestboxes are occupied by Eurasian kestrels, while tawny owls, jays and sparrows have occupied only a few. In 2010, we also mounted nests for red-footed falcons (Falco vespertinus) in northern Italy, in the hope of increasing the breeding population of this rare and endangered species. The large population of kestrels breeding in our artificial nest boxes has been, and still is, thoroughly studied by our team, resulting in a series of publications on scientific journals. Topics include oxidative stress and hormones in kestrels, exposure to magnetic fields of powerlines, ecotoxicology, evolutionary genetics and behavioural ecology. For example, in 2006 we published a paper demonstrating the existence of two genetically dissimilar populations of kestrels breeding in central Italy, divided by breeding period.

Kestrel Nestboxes

Nestboxes of kestrels and red-footed falcons. Electricity lines offer a possibility for positively contributing to biodiversity.

Seabird tracking

Tracking of Scopoli’s shearwaters since 2007 in cooperation with the University of Palermo (IT) and the CNRS of Montpellier (FR).

Despite the relatively small size of the island, Linosa hosts the second largest colony of Scopoli’s shearwaters in the Mediterranean Sea, with an estimated number of about 10’000 pairs. While this colony is rather healthy, the Mediterranean population of this shearwater is undergoing a decline similar to other pelagic birds due to overfishing, predation by rats and feral cats, human related losses and colony disturbance.
Since 2007 we have been following about 80 shearwaters during their foraging trips thanks to GPS loggers produced by Technosmart Europe, mainly during the chick rearing period, from July to August. The first results from these studies can be seen here.
In 2009 we then proceeded with the use of light-level geolocators to locate the wintering grounds of this species, which seem to be located off of the western coasts of Africa.
In 2010 we also started tracking the very small colony of Salina (Eolie Islands) in the north of Sicily, which seems to be very endangered due to the presence of rats on the island.

For several years we have been developing an avian radar system to track migration and other collective behaviour. We have collected radar data on soaring raptors during spring and autumn migration over the Strait of Messina, in the framework of an impact assessment for a recently built powerline by Terna. We have conducted radar studies in La Paz (Mexico) in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada, investigating the nocturnal movements of magnificent frigatebirds (Fretaga magnificens) in relation to wind. We have also collaborated with the University of Chile for the location of grey gull (Leucophaeus modestus) colonies in the Atacama desert.

Radar studies

Since 2011 we have been developing a radar adapted to avian studies.

Stone curlew

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under construction

black kites

under construction

Urban gulls

under construction

birds on migration

under construction