To conduct telemetry studies of wintering canvasbacks (Aythya valisineria) on Chesapeake Bay, we needed to devise a suitable method of radio transmitter attachment. We describe an aseptic, intra-abdominal surgical technique, using the inhalation anesthetic isoflurane, to implant 20-g radio transmitters in free-ranging canvasbacks. We evaluated the technique over 3 winters (1987-89), when an annual average of 83 female canvasbacks received implant surgery during a 9-day period in mid-December. Of 253 ducks, 248 (98%) were implanted successfully, and 200 (80.6%) completed the 70-day study until early March. No mortality or abnormal behavior from surgery was identified post-release.
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Implanting radio transmitters in wintering canvasbacks