Abdominally implanted radiotransmitters with percutaneous antennas are increasingly used to monitor movements, survival, and reproduction of waterbirds. However, there has been relatively little assessment of the effects of such radios on avian demographic parameters or migration. We implanted either a 26- or 35-g abdominal transmitter with percutaneous antenna in 198 adult female lesser Canada geese (Branta canadensis parvipes) in Anchorage, Alaska during 2000 and 2001. We compared migration chronology, reproductive effort, and survival of radiomarked females to 118 control females marked with leg bands. Arrival dates following spring migration were similar among females in different treatments in 2001. However, in 2002, wind direction during late migration was less favorable, and arrival of females with 35-g radiotransmitters lagged 1-2 days behind that of control females. Nest initiation dates, clutch size, and mean egg volume were similar for 152 nests of females that lacked radios and 62 nests of radiomarked females. Estimated nesting propensity for females with operable radiotransmitters was 61% and 72% in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Apparent annual survival (?? = 0.82, 95% confidence interval: 0.76 to 0.87) was similar among treatments in the first year after geese were marked. In the second and third years after marking, model-averaged estimates for survival of females with large radiotransmitters were 10% lower than estimates for control females. However, the effect of large radios on long-term survival was equivocal because of uncertainty surrounding treatment estimates. We conclude that abdominally implanted radiotransmitters with percutaneous antennas had small effects on migration chronology but no apparent effects on fecundity. Abdominal transmitters can provide unbiased estimates of anserine survival in the first year after deployment. Because of the potentially greater effects of larger transmitters on migration and long-term survival, we recommend that biologists minimize the size of implanted transmitters and deploy radios with caution if long-term survival of marked birds is a concern.
Additional publication details
Effects of abdominally implanted radiotransmitters with percutaneous antennas on migration, reproduction, and survival of Canada geese