“Edward the Egret” has made his triumphant return to New Jersey/New York Metropolitan area once again. As a sign that spring has arrived, Edward safely landed in Hoffman Island in Staten Island earlier this week, where he has bred for the last two years.
For most of the year, you can spot Edward hanging around the Arthur Kill. He’s an urban bird, hatched in the New York-New Jersey harbor, and that is where he feels most at home.
But New Jersey Audubon can tell you, with 100 percent pinpoint accuracy, that Edward also likes to head down to Hilton Head, S.C. for parts of the winter, and has some favorite towns he makes sure to visit.
That’s commonly known because New Jersey Audubon caught Edward in June of 2015, placing a transmitter on him. Researchers are now using GPS and a solar-powered device to track Edward wherever he goes for the rest of his life, said Nellie Tsipoura, Ph.D., a Senior Research Scientist for New Jersey Audubon.
Every day, New Jersey Audubon gets texts from Edward’s transmitter, at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., letting Dr. Tsipoura know where he is. His route is easily viewable to the public through njaudubon.org or here.
“We are tracking Edward so we can learn where he is breeding and where he goes when the breeding season is over,” Tsipoura said. “We’ve learned that in June and July he likes to go back and forth between a nesting colony on Hoffman Island in Staten Island and the Arthur Kill in New Jersey. At the end of September, he moves to Jamaica Bay and then around mid-November, he makes his way down to Hilton Head.”
New Jersey Audubon is collaborating and sharing data with researchers in New York City and North Carolina, as they study habitat use, focusing on conservation. “We want to know what type of habitats these egrets need at different stages of their lives,” Tsipoura said. “We are sharing and comparing our data with a larger set of birds tagged in the same way as Edward; tracking what they do and comparing their patterns.”
The scientist noted Edward has followed a very similar schedule and route two years in a row; he is one dependable egret.
“What has shocked us is his consistency, both in sites he uses and when he migrates from Jamaica Bay to South Carolina,” Tsipoura said. “In 2015, he left on November 23 and on November 22 in 2016. His return trip to NY was April 1-2 in 2016. This year, following a more coastal route than last year, he arrived at Barnegat Bay on April 3 and Staten Island on April 4. When he’s here, he doesn’t move around much, just back and forth between Staten Island and New Jersey. Clearly, he knows the best places to eat close by.”
The program is part of New Jersey Audubon’s “Cities and Towns” initiative, to focus on local conservation efforts. The program’s biggest challenge is finding the funding support for the transmission of Edward’s daily texts. To learn how you can help, visit njaudubon.org.