Question
Asked 4th Oct, 2017

Has anyone tail-mounted GPS transmitters to large waterfowl?

Colleagues and I are weighing options on how to fit GPS transmitters to adult Black Swans in New Zealand. Adults weigh ~4-7 kg. We're apprehensive about using collars as they may get caught in vegetation while foraging. Also concerned about satellite uplink capabilities down here (collars are only available from overseas companies). Another option is a dorsal attachment, but we've been advised against using any type of harness. We're leaning towards tail-mounting ~40g transmitters (Sirtrack PinPoint Iridium) to tail feather(s) just after moult. We should be able to get ~3 fixes per day for 9 months, which would cover winter and the following breeding season. However, we're concerned about whether these will stay attached. Tail-mounting has been done on gannets, penguins, gulls... but I haven't seen this on swans or other large waterfowl. Curious if anyone has any suggestions.
Thanks in advance.
Mark

Most recent answer

6th Mar, 2018
Todd Dennis
Fiji National University
I look forward to seeing your research progress.

All Answers (15)

6th Oct, 2017
Salwan Ali Abed
University of Al-Qadisiyah
1 Recommendation
9th Oct, 2017
Stefan Schoombie
Centre for Statistics in Ecology, the Environment (SEEC)
Hi Mark,
I would not recommend tail-mounting for long-term deployment. As you say it has been done on e.g. gannets, but this may impact fitness (see )
We deploy tags dorsally using Tesa tape (see Wilson et al. (1997) http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.uct.ac.za/stable/3783290?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents) on large seabirds such as albatrosses. We follow this method for short and long term deployments (up to several months) and have had many years of success.
But 9 months might be a bit of push.
9th Oct, 2017
Gyula Kovacs
Federal Research and Training Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape
For swans (and geese) both the backpack and the collar are good. We use collars, because mounting is easy. I bought a gps logger and then screwed it to the collar. It works perfect.
10th Oct, 2017
Mark Herse
King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi
Thank you all for your suggestions -- this is extremely helpful. I'm thinking we'll likely back away from the tail-mounting approach and try to replicate something similar to what you're doing Gyula. Considering we want the tags to stay attached for at least 9 months, this seems like a safer option. Thank you for providing the photos!
Best,
Mark
10th Oct, 2017
Klaus-Michael Exo
Institute of Avian Research
Hi Mark,
as others, I cannot recommend tail-mounting, use a backpack harness or a collar. However, I recommend to contact Bart Nolet at NIOO/KNAW in The Netherlands. He worked with both swans and geese.
Best
Michael
10th Oct, 2017
Gyula Kovacs
Federal Research and Training Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape
I use backpack for smaller waterbirds (Mallard). If you want to use it for swans, it's important, that the backpack should be high enough, so that the feathers do not cover the solar cell. For swans I recommend collars. It’s better for the birds and it’s easier to mount.
11th Oct, 2017
Mark Herse
King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi
Michael, thank you for that advice. Gyula, thanks for the additional photo. I plan to try collars instead. I'll post some updates later this summer with photos of the final product. Thanks again!
Best,
Mark
12th Oct, 2017
Mark Herse
King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi
Gyula, what is the material you used to cover the screw heads after fitting the GPS tags to the collars?
Best,
Mark
15th Oct, 2017
Anne Aulsebrook
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
Hi Mark,
In case this is also of interest - we have attached accelerometers to the collars of black swans using Tesa tape (see photo). Some swans wore these for up to 6-10 months. Most loggers stayed on that entire time, but we did lose a couple, so using screws might be better long-term. Our accelerometers were much lighter than your GPS loggers, too - closer to 15g. Our research group has previously used larger, rounder, heavier loggers and encountered issues with abrasion. Not sure if others have had similar issues?
Best,
Anne
16th Oct, 2017
Mark Herse
King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi
Hi Anne,
Thanks for chiming in - this is definitely helpful. We're working with the manufacturer to design a collar specifically for Black Swans, but you're right that these tags will be heavier, which has been a concern/issue. Can you provide any more detail on what you saw in terms of abrasion (for example, how severe), and any tips you might have for countering this problem? I've fit GPS collars to grouse and quail, and backpacks to songbirds, but waterbirds will be new.
Feel free to email me at mark.herse@pg.canterbury.ac.nz if you get a chance. Would be nice to hear about your work with Black Swans.
Best,
Mark
16th Oct, 2017
Gyula Kovacs
Federal Research and Training Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape
Hi Mark,
I used two-part epoxy adhesiv (5 or 15 minutes).
Best wishes,
Gyula
16th Oct, 2017
Gyula Kovacs
Federal Research and Training Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape
Hi Mark,
I send an email for you with some imformations.
Best wishes,
Gyula
4th Mar, 2018
Todd Dennis
Fiji National University
Hi Mark,
My answer is probably a bit late for you, but have a look at this:
An inexpensive satellite-download GPS receiver for wildlife: field trial on black swans
Rebecca M. Lehrke, Lizzie McGregor, John Dyer, Margaret C. Stanley, and Todd E. Dennis. Wildlife Research 2017 44 (6-7), 558-564
Hope the citation helps!
1 Recommendation
6th Mar, 2018
Mark Herse
King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi
Hi Todd,
Thanks for your message. Yes, I have seen this paper and spoken with Rebecca. We've decided to have a new GPS collar designed specifically for swans. I will post an update when I have some photos and specs to share on the thread.
Best,
Mark
6th Mar, 2018
Todd Dennis
Fiji National University
I look forward to seeing your research progress.

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Despite the explicit indications in the "Instructions for Referees/Reviewers" provided by most scientific journals, it seems that rude unprofessional answers from anonymous reviewers are more common than we wish they were. Researchers recently reported that more than half of the authors submitting scientific manuscripts to international journals receive one or more unfair unprofessional reviews. Any Editor knows that unprofessional reviews should be dismissed and the reviewer should be warned about his/her misconduct. Some Editors may even remove the unprofessional reviewers from the list of experts from which they chose reviewers. However, we all know that recruiting reviewers (a voluntary time-consuming, and mostly unrewarded job) is increasingly hard, and Editors often need to invite many experts before one accepts to review, and so Editors seem to be more and more permissive and flexible with reviewers' reports. Within this context, my question is: How would you deal with expert reviewers that send unprofessional reviews? Is there any novel (or more effective than the usual) way to discourage reviewers from sending unfair reports without discouraging experts from accepting editorial invitations to review manuscripts?
These examples should give you a good idea of what unprofessional reviews can include (while reading them, please have in mind that the "authors" are colleagues with proven expertise in their fields):
“The first author is a woman. She should be in the kitchen, not writing papers.”
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