Effects of satellite transmitters on survival in Snowy Owls Bubo scandiacus

Oddvar Heggøy, Tomas Aarvak, Ingar Jostein Øien, Karl-Otto Jacobsen, Roar Solheim, Dan Zazelenchuk, Marten Stoffel, Oddmund Kleven


The use of tracking devices to monitor birds is extensive, but the effects of such instruments on equipped individuals are still insufficiently taken into account. Here we evaluate potential effects of backpack-mounted satellite transmitters (platform terminal transmitters; PTTs) on survival of 28 Snowy Owls Bubo scandiacus. Six confirmed deaths were all probably related to natural and human-induced causes. Although PTT operational time was significantly shorter than expected lifetime of Snowy Owls, five owls were observed alive after transmissions ceased. Additionally four PTTs stopped due to low battery levels, indicating end of transmitter life and not owl mortality. We found no evidence of mortality caused by PTTs, but sample sizes are relatively low and detrimental effects on equipped Snowy Owls cannot be excluded. We recommend caution when instrumenting large owls.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15845/on.v40i0.1309

Ornis Norvegica gis ut av Norsk Ornitologisk Forening