Using miniaturized GPS archival tags to assess home range features of a small plunge-diving bird: the European Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

  • June 10, 2021
  • by Raphaël Musseau, Melina Bastianelli, Clementine Bely, Céline Rousselle & Olivier Dehorter


The European Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is a small plunge-diving bird, today considered a species of conservation concern in Europe given its rapid population decline observed across the continent. We implemented a pilot study aimed at providing first data allowing to: (1) assess home range features of the European Kingfisher for populations with unevenly distributed feeding habitats; (2) define conservation implications for habitats exploited by such populations; and (3) evaluate possibilities for developing GPS tracking schemes dedicated to home range studies for this species that could be possibly applied to other small plunge-diving birds.

In 2018 and 2019, we equipped 16 breeding European Kingfishers sampled within the marshes of the Gironde Estuary (France), with miniaturized and waterproof GPS archival tags deployed with leg-loop harnesses (total equipment mass = 1.4 g; average bird mass = 40.18 ± 1.12 g).

On average, we collected 35.31 ± 6.66 locations usable for analyses, without a significant effect on bird body condition (n = 13 tags retrieved). Data analyses highlighted rather limited home ranges exploited by birds (average = 2.50 ± 0.55 ha), composed on average by 2.78 ± 0.40 location nuclei. Our results also underscore: (1) a rather important home range fragmentation index (0.36 ± 0.08); and (2) the use by birds of different types of small wetlands (wet ditches, small ponds or small waterholes), often exploited in addition to habitats encompassing nest locations.

Our study reveals interesting GPS tracking possibilities for small plunge-diving birds such as the European Kingfisher. For this species, today classified as vulnerable in Europe, our results underline the importance of developing conservation and ecological restoration policies for wetland networks that would integrate small wetlands particularly sensitive to global change.