Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

WATLAS - advanced tracking and localisation of shorebirds

With WATLAS (Wadden Sea Advanced Tracking and Localisation of Animals in real life Systems), we follow where birds go in the western Dutch Wadden Sea. By investigating where birds go and why, we can identify whether and how they can deal with threats such as sea level rise and habitat destruction. So far we have tracked red knots, sanderling, bar-tailed godwits, and common terns. 

With WATLAS we follow where Red Knots go in the western Wadden Sea. Photo: Jan van de Kam

Red knot movements

In June and July, Red knots breed in the arctic. The rest of the year, they live in coastal areas of western Europe in search of food and safety. The Wadden Sea is an important and unique site for Red knots, where they moult their feathers and feed on shellfish like Baltic tellins and cockles. With WATLAS, we study how shorebirds move with the tide, on which intertidal mudflats do they feed and with whom, how individuals differ in where they go, and how long they stay in the Wadden Sea on their migratory journeys.

Using unique tag-ID's

With WATLAS we track birds using Time-Of-Arrival (TOA) principles, unique tag-IDs for radio transmitters, ground stations with tower-mounted antennas, and central data-processing and storage servers. Radio transmissions sent from each bird attached tag are received by several ground stations. The system uses time-of-arrival estimates to estimate the location of the animal and stores the location in a database.

WATLAS live-view

Visit WATLAS - tracking regional movements and find out where the birds are foraging in the Dutch Wadden Sea.

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Project information
Linked department:
Netherlands Organization for S…
1 Jan 2018 - 31 Dec 2024

Meet the team

Bijleveld, Allert
Senior Scientist
Dekinga, Anne
Senior Research Assistant
Denissen, Bas
Embedded Software and Electronics Engineer
Maarseveen van, Frank
Embedded Software and Electronics Engineer