Effects of bio-loggers on behaviour and corticosterone metabolites of Northern Bald Ibises (Geronticus eremita) in the field and in captivity

Verena Puehringer-Sturmayr, Matthias Claudio A. Loretto, Josef Hemetsberger, Tanja Czerny, Johannes Gschwandegger, Madelaine Leitsberger, Kurt Kotrschal, Didone Frigerio

Background: During the past decades, avian studies have profited from the development of miniature electronic devices that allow long-term and long-range monitoring. To ensure data quality and to inform understanding of possible impacts, it is necessary to test the effects of tagging. We investigated the influence of GPS-transmitters on the behaviour and physiology (levels of excreted corticosterone metabolites, CM) of an endangered bird species, the Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita). We considered effects of GPS-tags in two contexts: (1) aviary (i.e. in captivity), focussing on short-term effects of transmitters on locomotion, foraging and maintenance behaviour (20 individuals that differed in sex and age observed for 10 days) and (2) field, focussing on intermediate-term effects of transmitters on locomotion, foraging, maintenance behaviour, dorsal feather preening, social interactions and physiology (CM) (24 individuals observed for 79 days). In both contexts, focal animals were equipped with bio-logger backpacks mounted with a harness. Results: In the aviary, behavioural observations were limited to the first days after tagging: no differences were found between individuals with GPS-tags and their controls with respect to the behavioural parameters considered. In the field, no behavioural differences were found between the GPS-tagged individuals and their controls; however, 1 month after tagging, individuals with GPS-tags excreted significantly more CM than their controls before returning to baseline levels. Conclusions: Our results suggest that GPS-transmitters did not affect foraging, locomotion and maintenance behaviour in the Northern Bald Ibis in the short- or intermediate-term. However, they did affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal reactivity in the intermediate-term for 1 month before returning to baseline levels the next month. As the Northern Bald Ibis is listed as endangered, evaluating possible adverse effects of bio-logging is also relevant for potential conservation and reintroduction research.

Core Facility KLF for Behavior and Cognition, Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology
External organisation(s)
Universität Wien, University of Winchester
Animal Biotelemetry
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106051 Behavioural biology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Signal Processing, Animal Science and Zoology, Instrumentation, Computer Networks and Communications
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