University of Oulu

Pakanen, V.‐M., Rönkä, N., Robert Leslie, T., Blomqvist, D. and Koivula, K. (2020), Survival probability in a small shorebird decreases with the time an individual carries a tracking device. J Avian Biol, 51:.

Survival probability in a small shorebird decreases with the time an individual carries a tracking device

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Author: Pakanen, Veli‐Matti1,2; Rönkä, Nelli2; Leslie, Thomson Robert3;
Organizations: 1Dept of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Univ. of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
2Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, Univ. of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3FitzPatrick Inst. of African Ornithology, DST‐NRF Centre of Excellence, Univ. of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2020
Publish Date: 2021-01-19


Effects of tracking devices on survival are generally considered to be small. However, most studies to date have been conducted over a time‐period of only one year, neglecting the possible accumulation of negative effects and consequently stronger negative impacts on survival when the individuals have carried the tracking devices for longer periods. We studied the effects of geolocators in a closely monitored and colour‐ringed southern dunlin Calidris alpina schinzii population breeding in Finland. Our capture–recapture data spans 2002–2018 and includes individual histories of 338 colour‐ringed breeding adult dunlins (the term ‘recapture’ includes resightings of colour‐ringed and individually recognizable birds). These data include 53 adults that were fitted with leg‐flag mounted geolocators in 2013–2014. We followed their fates together with other colour‐ringed birds not equipped with geolocators until 2018. Geolocators were removed within 1–2 years of attachment or were not removed at all, which allowed us to examine whether carrying a geolocator reduces survival and whether the reduction in survival becomes stronger when geolocators are carried for more than one year. We fit multi‐state open population capture–recapture models to the encounter history data. When assessing geolocator effects, we accounted for recapture probabilities, time since marking, and sex and year effects on survival. We found that carrying a geolocator reduced survival, which contrasts with many studies that examined return rates after one year. Importantly, survival declined with the time the individual had carried a geolocator, suggesting that the negative effects accumulate over time. Hence, the longer monitoring of birds carrying a geolocator may explain the difference from previous studies. Despite their larger mass, females tended to be more strongly affected by geolocators than males. Our results warrant caution in conducting tracking studies and suggest that short‐term studies examining return rates may not reveal all possible effects of tracking devices on survival.

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Series: Journal of avian biology
ISSN: 0908-8857
ISSN-E: 1600-048X
ISSN-L: 0908-8857
Volume: 51
Issue: 10
Article number: e02555
DOI: 10.1111/jav.02555
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This study was funded by the Academy of Finland (278759), the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Univ. of Oulu, the Emil Aaltonen foundation and the Univ. of Oulu Scholarship Foundation and Stiftelsen Olle Engkvist Byggmästare.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 278759
Detailed Information: 278759 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2020 The Authors. Journal of Avian Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.