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FOLLOWING FLEDGELINGS

Rebotile Rachuene, African Grass-owl Project Coordinator, EWT’s Birds of Prey Programme (BOPP), tselaner@ewt.org.za

Five years ago, we embarked on a project to monitor African Grass-owl fledgelings once they leave their nests to understand their movement patterns and behaviour. To do so, we ring them so that we, and others, can identify individual owls when they are seen again.

Since 2017, we have ringed at least 30 individuals from both the Mpumalanga and Gauteng provinces. The majority of these individuals were fledgelings, and two were breeding adults. The ringing follows extensive field monitoring to ensure that the nests are not disturbed during the owls’ breeding and nesting periods. As soon as they reach fledgeling age, we go in and ring them.

This month, we were fortunate enough to ring five fledgelings, about six weeks old, now from two different nests in Midrand, Gauteng, two siblings from one nest, and three from the other. Working together with our partner, the Greater Kyalami Conservancy (GEKCO), we have successfully safeguarded these nests and eventually successfully ringed our first clutch of fledgelings in the area since 2018. One nest is in a site destroyed by fire in the 2018/2019 season, and the other is in a new breeding site that we discovered had been occupied recently – very exciting news! The five chicks were released and will be monitored closely up until they fledge and find their own sites to nest in. In 2019, one of our ringed birds was found actively breeding 10 km away from where it was ringed, which was extremely valuable information, demonstrating how this form of monitoring can provide us with a better understanding of how far they can travel in search of new territories.

This project is proudly supported by the Mafube Coal Mine (Middleburg) and the National Geographic Society