Tracking devices attached with harnesses influence behaviour but not body mass of Princess Parrots Polytelis alexandrae

Abstract

The use of tracking devices to monitor the movements of parrots can benefit conservation and management efforts in species for which there is scant information on their habitat use and distribution. Before such studies can proceed, there is a clear need to assess the efficacy of tag attachment so as not to create welfare issues for the target individuals or negate the scientific value of subsequent tracking results. We developed a harness and trialled it as a method of attaching 5-g non-operational satellite tags to captive Princess Parrots Polytelis alexandrae. The influence of the harness package on the parrots’ activity budgets and body mass was investigated, and comparisons were made with control individuals not fitted with harness packages. The attachment of harness packages led to an initial increase in preening rates at the expense of resting and foraging behaviour, but did not affect the duration of eating and drinking behaviours. Despite an initial difference between the behaviours of tagged parrots and control parrots, after 3 weeks the rates of behaviour of tagged parrots matched those of the controls, suggesting they were more accepting of the harness and satellite tag by this time. The harness package had no effect on body mass; a similar pattern was observed for mean weight change per fortnight between tagged and control parrots. Three-quarters of all harness packages were worn by the tagged parrots for the full captive trial (98 days) without harness damage. The harness design tested here is likely transferable to other bird species that display similar structure and wing-loadings, and as such is a valuable contribution to avian tracking studies.

Zusammenfassung

Mit Schlaufengeschirr befestigte Ortungsgeräte beeinflussen das Verhalten jedoch nicht die Körpermasse von Alexandrasittichen Polytelis alexandrae

Die Verwendung von Ortungsgeräten, um die Bewegungen von Papageien zu verfolgen, kann sich positiv auf Schutzund Managementbemühungen für Arten auswirken, über deren Habitatnutzung und Verbreitung nur wenig bekannt ist. Bevor solche Studien fortgesetzt werden können, ist es notwendig, die Wirksamkeit der Befestigung der Geräte abzuschätzen, um das Wohlergehen der Tiere nicht zu beeinträchtigen oder den wissenschaftlichen Nutzen späterer Ortungsdaten nicht zunichte zu machen. Wir haben ein Schlaufengeschirr entwickelt und als Methode zur Befestigung von 5 g schweren, nicht betriebsbereiten Satellitengeräten an in Gefangenschaft gehaltenen Alexandrasittichen Polytelis alexandrae ausprobiert. Der Einfluss des Schlaufengeschirrs auf das Aktivitätsbudget und die Körpermasse der Papageien wurde untersucht und Vergleiche mit Kontrolltieren ohne Schlaufengeschirr angestellt. Das Anbringen der Pakete führte zunächst zu verstärktem Putzverhalten auf Kosten von Ruhe- und Nahrungssuchverhalten, beeinflusste jedoch nicht die Dauer von Fress- und Trinkverhalten. Trotz eines anfänglichen Unterschieds im Verhalten markierter und unmarkierter Papageien hatten sich die Anteile bestimmter Verhaltensweisen markierter Papageien nach drei Wochen denen unmarkierter Papageien angeglichen, was auf eine stärkere Akzeptanz von Schlaufengeschirr und Satellitengerät nach dieser Zeit hindeutet. Das Schlaufengeschirr hatte keinen Effekt auf die Körpermasse, und ein ähnliches Muster wurde für die mittlere Masseänderung pro 14 Tage bei markierten und unmarkierten Papageien beobachtet. Drei Viertel aller Schlaufengeschirre wurden von den markierten Papageien bis zum Versuchsende (nach 98 Tagen) getragen, ohne dass das Geschirr beschädigt wurde. Das hier getestete Schlaufendesign lässt sich wahrscheinlich auf andere Vogelarten übertragen, die ähnliche Struktur und Tragflächenbelastung haben, und stellt daher einen nützlichen Beitrag zu Ortungsstudien an Vögeln dar.

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Acknowledgments

The trial was conducted under Monash University Animal Ethics Permit BSCI/2011/12. Within the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University we thank Ricardo San Martin and Stewart Crowley for providing assistance with captive husbandry, and Jim Thompson for valuable assistance with data modelling and analyses. We are grateful for advice and information received on harness material from John McEvoy, School of Life and Environmental Science, Deakin University, and on harness design from Helen Trefrey, Environment Canada, Alberta, Canada, and Chris Hewson, British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford, UK. Two anonymous reviewers provided useful comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ashley Herrod or Rohan H. Clarke.

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Communicated by F. Bairlein.

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Herrod, A., King, M., Ingwersen, D. et al. Tracking devices attached with harnesses influence behaviour but not body mass of Princess Parrots Polytelis alexandrae . J Ornithol 155, 519–529 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-013-1034-4

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Keywords

  • Radio tracking
  • Transmitter
  • Harness
  • Preening
  • Threatened bird
  • Movements
  • Captive trial