Surgically implanted satellite transmitters have been widely used in studies of avian ecology, yet little is known about their potential impacts on birds. We implanted satellite transmitters with percutaneous antennae (approx. 50 g) in 17 female common eiders (Somateria mollissima) at a breeding colony in Arctic Canada. Among females implanted during incubation, 11 of 12 nests were abandoned within 1 week of being radioed. We observed no differences in the proportion of time that implanted female eiders allocated to basic behaviors. Radioed birds were more likely to pick or preen their abdominal (site of surgical incision) and posterior—dorsal (site of antenna exit) regions than unmarked females, although these behaviors were rare (approx. 0.3% of total time budget). Three of 10 females re-observed had a pronounced limp following surgery, but we observed no walking difficulties among these females in subsequent seasons, and we observed some implanted eiders nesting in subsequent years. Mark—resighting models suggest eiders with transmitters had lower apparent survival the year after implantation (67.0%; 85% CI: 47.8–81.9%) than did color-banded eiders (87.5%, 85% CI: 82.5–91.2%), but there was no model support for a survival difference in subsequent years. We conclude that transmitter implantation in common eiders leads to short-term changes in behavior and a decline in first year survival. We encourage researchers to collect similar data on their study subjects where possible and use it to determine the degree to which data are representative of the greater population.
abdominal satellite transmitters