Marine Biology

, Volume 159, Issue 1, pp 1–14 | Cite as

When three per cent may not be three per cent; device-equipped seabirds experience variable flight constraints

  • Sylvie P. VandenabeeleEmail author
  • Emily L. Shepard
  • Adam Grogan
  • Rory P. Wilson
Original Paper


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.


Zebra Finch Wing Area Wing Loading Wing Span Payload Mass 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are grateful to Colin Pennycuick for his help at various stages from the use of his Flight program to his constructive comments on the manuscript. We also thank Adrian Gleiss for helpful discussions. Finally, this study would have not been carried out without financial support from the California Department of Fish and Game’s Oil Spill Response Trust Fund (through the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at the Wildlife Health Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis) and the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 9RS, United Kingdom).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sylvie P. Vandenabeele
    • 1
    Email author
  • Emily L. Shepard
    • 1
  • Adam Grogan
    • 2
  • Rory P. Wilson
    • 1
  1. 1.Swansea Moving Animal Research Team, Biosciences, College of ScienceSwansea UniversitySingleton ParkWales, UK
  2. 2.Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Wildlife DepartmentWilberforce Way, SouthwaterHorsham, West SussexUK

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