Effects of satellite transmitters on albatrosses and petrels
Effects of deployment of miniaturized transmitters and loggers have been well studied in penguins, but much less so in flying seabirds. We examined the effects of satellite tag (platform terminal transmitter, PTT) deployment in Black-browed (Thalassarche melanophris) and Gray-headed (T. chrysostoma) albatrosses at South Georgia and reviewed the recent literature for other albatrosses and petrels. In our study, although a few individuals may have slightly extended their foraging trips, overall there was no significant difference in trip duration, meal mass, breeding success, or rate of return in the next season between birds with PTTs and controls. By comparison, most other studies of albatrosses and petrels recorded extended trip durations and, in some cases, high rates of nest desertion following PTT attachment. That occurred particularly where transmitter loads exceeded 3% of adult mass. Extended trip durations may result from reduced flight efficiency, as well as the effect of capture and temporary restraint, but affected birds seem nonetheless to commute to representative foraging areas. To minimize device effects, we suggest that transmitter loads be reduced to a minimum, use of harnesses be avoided (particularly for breeding season deployments when tape attachment to feathers is an effective alternative), and careful attention be given to limiting handling times during incubation when some species are particularly sensitive to disturbance.
Authors: Phillips, Richard A., Xavier, Jose C. ORCID record for Jose C. Xavier, Croxall, John P.