Radio packages may subtly affect bird behavior and condition, and thus could bias results from studies using this technique. To assess effects on reproduction of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), we tested 3 types of back-mounted radio packages on captive females. Eight paired females were randomly assigned to each of 4 treatments: 4-g transmitter attached with sutures and glue, 10-g or 18-g transmitter attached with a harness, and no transmitter (control). All mallards were fed ad libitum. No differences were detected among treatments in number of clutches, clutch size, nesting interval, egg mass, or body mass; powers (range = 0.15-0.48) of tests were low. Feather wear and skin irritation around radio packages were minimal. Birds retained sutured transmitters for an average of 43.5 days (range = 3-106 days) and harness transmitters for the duration of the study (106 days). Sutures were not reliable and presently are not recommended as an attachment method. Caution is advised in applying these results to radio-equipped mallards in the wild.
Additional publication details
Effects of radio transmitters on nesting captive mallards