Assessment of three methods used to attach radio-transmitters to migratory waders in northern New South Wales

Thirty-two single-stage transmitters were attached to ten species of waders as part of a study on nocturnal habitat use. Three variations of a method used previously to attach transmitters to waders were compared. The aim of the comparison was to see if less disruptive variations of the standard attachment technique could provide similar retention times. The three variations were: 1) transmitter attached directly to the bird's lower back; 2) transmitter with gauze attached to a patch of trimmed feathers on the bird's lower back; and 3) transmitters were attached directly to a patch of trimmed feathers on the bird's lower back. Retention time ranged from 11 to 55 days. The longest mean retention time was recorded for variation three (31 days), followed by variation two (30 days) and variation one (19 days). Despite the large difference between the averages there was no significant difference in retention time between the three variations. A significant difference in retention time was recorded between different weight classes. Birds weighing over 300 grams retained transmitters for a significantly longer period of time than birds weighing less than 150 grams. The results suggest that the capture and attachment of transmitters can have a short-term effect on bird behaviour.

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