The waldrappteam.at project started in 2002. The project is working with two major topics:
- teaching NBI a migration tradition from the breeding area to an appropriate wintering area and monitor the spatio-temporal pattern of the birds when they become independent after their arrival in the winter area.
- conducting research on migration disposition and migration physiology. The physiological data will permit the evaluation of human-led migration as a method for bird conservation and reintroduction.
Guided by flying motor trikes, flown by people on whom the hand-reared birds had imprinted, the juveniles “migrate” to Italy. The first trip started in 2004. Since then each year about 8-10 juveniles have been led to the wintering area. These young birds, most of them carrying a radio transmitter, stay there over winter in the protected area of Grosetto and are observed throughout the whole winter. In spring the supplementary feeding at this site is stopped, and the birds are left to fend for themselves.
In May 2005 for the first time birds migrated north, however they did not reach the area in Austria where they had been reared. In spring 2006 again 5 birds left Grossetto and 2 found their way up north to Carinthia, in 2007 3 birds flew north to Austria (Styria). In March 2008 6 of the adult birds (born in 2004) headed northwards and flew up to Friaul, North Italy. There they were captured and taken into an aviary where one pair started to breed. Two chicks hatched and after these fledged all the birds were released. In September they left Friaul heading south and arrived after two days in their wintering area in Grosetto. This has shown that the NBI can learn a migration route.
Additionally the Waldrappteam.at started in 2008 a research project on migration physiology in cooperation with the University of Vienna. This project offers a unique chance to closely monitor migrating birds and to take samples (blood/faeces adrenalin, metabolism, fat, body mass) from birds undertaking both fatiguing and non-strenuous flights, to document extremes in the analyses of physiological parameters and flight duration.