Implanted satellite transmitters affect sea duck movement patterns at short- and long-term time scales

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Studies of the effects of transmitters on wildlife often focus on survival. However, non-lethal behavioral changes resulting from radiomarking have the potential to affect inferences from telemetry data and may vary based on individual and environmental characteristics. We used a long-term, multi-species tracking study of sea ducks to assess behavioral patterns at multiple temporal scales following implantation of intracoelomic satellite transmitters. We applied state-space models to assess short-term behavioral patterns in individuals with implanted satellite transmitters, as well as comparing breeding site attendance and migratory phenology across multiple years after capture. In the short term, our results suggest an increase in dispersive behavior immediately following capture and transmitter implantation; however, behavior returned to seasonally-average patterns within approximately five days after release. Over multiple years, we found that breeding site attendance by both males and females was depressed during the first breeding season after radiomarking relative to subsequent years, with larger relative decreases in breeding site attendance among males than females. We also found that spring migration occurred later in the first year after radiomarking than in subsequent years. Across all behavioral effects, the severity of behavioral change often varied by species, sex, age, and capture season, suggesting heterogeneity in individual sensitivity. We conclude that, although individuals appear to adjust relatively quickly (i.e., within one week) to implanted satellite transmitters, changes in breeding phenology may occur over the longer term and should be considered when analyzing and reporting telemetry data.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Implanted satellite transmitters affect sea duck movement patterns at short- and long-term time scales
Series title Condor
DOI 10.1093/condor/duaa029
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Oxford Academic
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
Description duaa029, 16 p.
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