When three per cent may not be three per cent; device-equipped seabirds experience variable flight constraints
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- Vandenabeele, S.P., Shepard, E.L., Grogan, A. et al. Mar Biol (2012) 159: 1. doi:10.1007/s00227-011-1784-6
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Current guidelines for instrumenting birds state that external devices should not exceed 3–5% of the birds’ body mass; however, the energetic consequences of carrying any given device mass are likely to vary according to the morphology and ecology of the species concerned. We used a freeware program to estimate the mechanical power requirements of flight at the minimum power speed for 80 species of flying seabird from 8 major groups with payloads of increasing mass. Devices representing 3% of the bird’s body mass resulted in an increase in energy expenditure for flight ranging from 4.67 to 5.71% without accounting for the increase in body drag coefficient associated with external devices. This effect differed within and between seabird lineages with members of the Alcidae and Phalacrocoracidae experiencing the highest energetic costs of any increase in device mass. We propose that device effects on seabirds could be further reduced through consideration of species-specific effects of added payload and drag.