Excess baggage for birds: inappropriate placement of tags on gannets changes flight patterns.
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Copyright: © 2014 Vandenabeele et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Devices attached to flying birds can hugely enhance our understanding of their behavioural ecology for periods when they cannot be observed directly. For this, scientists routinely attach units to either birds' backs or their tails. However, inappropriate payload distribution is critical in aircraft and, since birds and planes are subject to the same laws of physics during flight, we considered aircraft aerodynamic constraints to explain flight patterns displayed by northern gannets Sula bassana equipped with (small ca. 14 g) tail- and back-mounted accelerometers and (larger ca. 30 g) tail-mounted GPS units. Tail-mounted GPS-fitted birds showed significantly higher cumulative numbers of flap-glide cycles and a higher pitch angle of the tail than accelerometer-equipped birds, indicating problems with balancing inappropriately placed weights with knock-on consequences relating to energy expenditure. These problems can be addressed by carefully choosing where to place tags on birds according to the mass of the tags and the lifestyle of the subject species.
This study would have not been carried out without the 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). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
This is the final version of the article. Available from Public Library of Science via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 9, Iss. 3, pp. e92657 -
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