Biodiversity - waterbirds

Current Articles | Search | Syndication

Follow the migrating Purple Heron online!


Ten Purple Herons can be monitored from today onwards in their trek to Africa. These herons are equipped with a satellite transmitter, which allows their position to be determined with a ten metre accuracy. The flyway of the Purple Heron can be observed online at:

Their migratory behaviour will tell us more about the dangers they face in their journey. That knowledge can be used to improve their protection.In the past period eight purple herons were already equipped with a transmitter. These birds come from four different colonies in the Netherlands.

Long distance trekkers

Purple Herons are real long distance trekkers, which fly to West Africa to hibernate, but nobody knows how they actually do it. It is critical to know where the hibernating areas of this species are situated in Europe and Africa in order to protect them. Thanks to these transmitters information is gathered on the areas as well as on the migratory behaviour of the Purple Herons.

Last year the first eight birds were equipped with light-weight satellite transmitters. It appeared that mature birds prepare themselves for the trek in their favourite feeding areas. Three young birds left earlier, but remained in the vicinity of fishing ponds in Northern France. Furthermore, the birds mainly flew at night and barely refuelled during the flight. Moreover, it appeared that their trek is full of dangers. Five birds perished due to different causes; one transmitter broke; two birds are still in the race.

Online monitoring

Using the website: the travel of the ten birds can be monitored online. Experts maintain a log detailing the adventures of the birds. The latest news is that one of the birds has already left and at this moment is residing near Barcelona, Spain.

The Purple Heron is more elegant and slimmer than the most common Blue Heron. It is a typical swamp dweller that was more numerous is the past in the Netherlands. Nowadays, it is included Red List of breeding birds and only some 600 breeding pairs remain in this country.

The biggest colonies are situated in Zouweboezem, Nieuwkoopse Plassen and near Kinderdijk (Zuid-Holland province) and in De Wieden (Overijssel province). Vogelbescherming Nederland / BirdLife Netherlands implements various projects for the improvement of the habitat of the Purple Heron.

Project details

Transmitter research on trekking and hibernating Purple Herons is a project of Vogelbescherming Nederland / BirdLife Netherlands, which is implemented by Bureau Waardenburg, and is co-financed by Wetlands International.

Press contact

Communications and Advocacy Department