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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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