Van Wijk, R.E., G. Souchay, S. Jenni-Eiermann, S. Bauer, M. Schaub (2016)

No detectable effects of lightweight geolocators on a Palaearctic-African long-distance migrant.

Further information

J. Ornithol. 157: 255–264



Tracking devices are used in a broad range of species for a broad range of questions, but their potential effects on study species are debated. Outcomes of earlier studies on effects are equivocal: some studies find negative effects on behaviour and life history traits, while others do not. Contrasting results might be due to low sample sizes, temporal scale (no repetition of the study over multiple years) and a limited range of response variables considered. We investigated effects of geolocators on a range of response variables: body condition, physiological states, reproductive performance and, ultimately, annual apparent survival for a medium-sized Palaearctic-African long-distance migrant, the Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops, for the combined study period (2009–2014) and for individual years. We investigated response variables 1 year after deployment of the geolocator and found no differences in body condition, physiological states and several components of reproductive performance between individuals with and without geolocators when data were combined. Also, apparent annual survival did not differ between geolocator and control birds. We did, however, find effects in some years possibly related to environmental stochasticity or chance events due to lower sample sizes. We argue that results of studies on the effects of tracking devices should be interpreted and generalized with great caution and suggest that future studies on the effects of tracking devices are conducted over multiple years. Future studies should also apply capture–recapture models to estimate survival, rather than focus solely on return rates.
Keywords: Body condition, Capture–recapture model, Corticosterone, Migration, Survival, Hoopoe