Ecological research

    Determinants of stopover locations during migration in Red Kites

    General outline

    The Swiss population of red kites, a large raptor species, has been increasing over the last 30 years, and its distribution range in Switzerland has considerably expanded. In the same period, populations in surrounding countries have remained stable or have even declined. The species is a short-distance, partial migrant, exhibiting a good deal of variation in the spatial and temporal migratory patterns. Varying environmental conditions, such as landscape structures, composition and activity, as well as weather likely influence migratory patterns.

    The aim of this Master thesis is to determine the most important environmental variables associated with stopover sites along the migratory trajectory of Red Kites compared to environmental variables “on the move”. This knowledge gives insight into the habitat components stopover decisions in a partial migrant. The thesis is part of a larger research project from the Swiss Ornithological Institute investigating Red Kite ecology and factors affecting population dynamics.


    The field work will take place in Switzerland, France and Spain during the fall migration period. After migration of adult GPS-tagged individuals, the number of stopover sites is quantified and its determinants analysed. The flight trajectories will be followed by car, and a standardized assessment of environmental conditions will be conducted at stopover sites along the routes. These will be compared with “in-transit” points, as well as randomized control points in the surrounding landscape matrix. Variables to be considered could include landscape type, food availability, recent landscape/agricultural activity, weather, as well as intrinsic variables of the individuals. Accommodation in the field apartment in Schmitten, between Bern and Freiburg is provided for field work (when not on the road!).


    Interest in spatial and movement ecology; driving license; enjoying hectic field work and long road trips; willingness to travel and to work on the road for weeks at a time. This master project should be started no later than August/September 2018.


    Schweizerische Vogelwarte
    Dr. Martin Grüebler
    6204 Sempach
    Tel: +41 41 462 97 22