We attempted to collect diet samples using throat ligatures from nestlings of three songbird species in a riparian woodland in southeastern Arizona from May to August 2009. We had success with Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia), observed adult Yellow-breasted Chats (Icteria virens) reclaim food from nestlings, and discontinued the use of throat ligatures when we observed an adult Abert's Towhee (Pipilo aberti) remove two, 34-day-old ligatured nestlings from its nest. Previous studies have reported problems (e.g., aggression toward nestlings by adults) with throat ligatures, but we are the first to document removal (and subsequent nestling mortality) in response to this technique. We urge investigators to exercise caution when using throat ligatures on species for which evidence of the safety and efficacy of this method are lacking, especially when nestlings are small in size relative to adults. ?? 2010 by the Wilson Ornithological Society.
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Response to nestling throat ligatures by three songbirds