Every year, millions of birds migrate over Israel and many more choose to winter in the country.

That has made Israel one of the top birding locations worldwide.

“Because of the unique position of Israel [at the border between several ecozones], we have a unique fauna here – and a unique interaction of species that do not meet each other in other places in the world,” Israeli researcher and professor of movement ecology Ran Nathan told DW recently.

The wide variety of birds has also made Israel a top location for bird researchers, who come to observe and learn more about the varieties of birds who fly over Israel and make the country their home.

Now, a group of Israeli researchers have developed a way to track birds in real-time and finally learn more about them.
“At this moment, we know nearly nothing about bird life. We just didn’t have the technology before,” Nathan, who helped develop the technology, said.

He further explained that just ten years ago, bird tracking devices provided just a couple of hundred of data points per project, leaving huge gaps of untracked time.

“Now we get these data points in less than an hour,” Nathan said, pointing out how the technology can help researchers understand birds like never before. “We can address questions like interaction between male and female birds, where the fledglings go when they leave their nests, and how they establish their own territory.”

Dubbed ATLAS [Advanced Tracking and Localization of Animal], the tracking system has already provided more information on barn owls then they ever had before, including the seemingly different behavior among pairs of the same species.

“One pair will forage only very locally, a few hundred meters away from its nest,” Nathan noted. “The neighboring pair, though, will fly to the other side of the valley for each hunting event. It will fly back and forth to bring just one small rodent [to the nest].”

In addition to collecting more data quickly, the ATLAS system also is lighter for the birds and requires no retrieval.The system, which weighs only a few grams and can be attached to even small birds, simply falls off the bird’s back after a while, leaving the bird subject unharmed.