The British Trust for Ornithology will fit house martins with miniature geolocation devices to discover where they migrate to.
Birds that nest in the UK in the summer will be tracked to discover where they migrate to in the winter months, which is currently a mystery.
The project follows a successful programme monitoring cuckoos fitted with the miniature geolocation tracking devices, manufactured by Biotrack, which has already established that cuckoos from the UK tend to migrate to Congo – and for longer periods than originally thought.
In the past year, there have been several reports of long-established house martin colonies being abandoned, possibly due to the cool wet 2012 summer, so the Trust also wants to know where house martins are building their nests this year.
“There are huge gaps in our knowledge of this wonderful little bird,” explained BTO spokesman Paul Stancliffe. “Do they abandon colonies one year to reoccupy them at some stage in the future? Do they all arrive at the same time or is the arrival spread out over several weeks?”
BTO says that the trackers will have to be ‘shirt-button’ size and weigh less as a house martin is considerably smaller than a cuckoo. The device measures and records light levels with time and date. When the bird returns to Britain, scientists recover the tracker and use the data to calculate where it has been and when.