We quantified the effects of radio transmitters on Wood Thrushes (Hylocichla mustelina) using 4 yr of banding and telemetry data from Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. Flight performance models suggest that the 1.6-g transmitter shortens the migratory range of Wood Thrushes by only 60 km, and the estimated migratory range is adequate to accomplish migration even with limited fat stores. We used two strengths of line, 5- and 9-kg test-strength braided Dacron, to attach the transmitters using the thigh-harness method. We recaptured 13 returning radio-marked Wood Thrushes, seven of which were still marked. Six of the seven birds marked with the 5-kg test harnesses lost their transmitters within 1 yr while all six of the 9-kg test harnesses were still attached up to 21 mo later. Radio-marking did not reduce the return rates of adults and immatures, and the transmitters did not cause radio-marked birds to lose more mass than banded-only birds. Wood Thrushes can successfully carry a transmitter during migration with no detectable negative effects. We recommend continued use of the thigh-harness method, but we encourage the use of 5-kg cotton line.
Additional publication details
Effects of radio transmitters on migrating wood thrushes