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Attachment and performance of Argos satellite tracking devices fitted to black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus spp.)

Groom, C., Warren, K., Le Souëf, A. and Dawson, R. (2014) Attachment and performance of Argos satellite tracking devices fitted to black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus spp.). Wildlife Research, 41 (7). p. 571.

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Context Studying interactions between a wildlife species and its spatial environment can enable a deeper understanding of its ecology. Studies of spatial ecology are generally undertaken by attaching tracking devices to selected individuals and following their movements. Highly mobile species, such as black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus spp.), that occupy habitats with patchy resources are ideal candidates. The powerful beak and chewing habits of black cockatoos make it difficult to successfully attach tracking devices to them. Aims We developed a safe technique for attaching tracking devices to black cockatoos and assessed the impact of the tracking devices, as well as their performance in relation to battery life, retention time and accuracy of location fixes. Methods We describe a technique for attaching Telonics (Mesa, AZ, USA) Argos Avian Transmitter TAV 2617 tracking devices to the two central tail feathers of black cockatoos. Key results Of 26 tracking devices fitted (24 to Carnaby's cockatoos, C. latirostris; two to Baudin's cockatoos, C. baudinii), 20 exhibited longer retention time than the nominal battery life. One tracking device was chewed until it was non-functional before release and two were presumed chewed after release because their tracking devices failed prematurely. There was no evidence that the tracking devices inhibited the flight capability of cockatoos. The performance of the Argos tracking devices exceeded expectations with regard to retention times, battery life and overall accuracy of location fixes. The tracking devices enabled detection of instances of rapid long-distance movements, including one bird that travelled 70km between night roosts while migrating. Most study birds (68%) remained within 50km of their release sites while monitored. Conclusion The tracking devices were a suitable choice for black cockatoos and for the purpose of this study. They posed minimal snag risk, were of suitable dimensions for tail attachment and they enabled data to be collected even if birds dispersed long distances. The main limitations that must be considered when assessing their suitability for future research projects are the errors associated with location fixes, limited retention time in relation to moulting of tail feathers and limited battery life. Implications The development of a method for successfully attaching tracking devices to black cockatoos opens the possibility to study aspects of the ecology of black cockatoos and other highly mobile species that was not previously possible.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © 2014 CSIRO.
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