Radio-transmitters and light-level geolocators are currently small enough for use on songbirds weighing <15 g. Various methods are used to attach these markers to larger songbirds, but with small birds it becomes especially important to minimize marker mass and bird handling time. Here, we offer modifications to harness materials and marker preparation for transmitters and geolocators, and we describe deployment methods that can be safely completed in 20–60 s per bird. We describe a 0.5-mm elastic sewing thread harness for radio-transmitters that allows nestlings, fledglings, and adults to be marked with the same harness size and reliably falls off to avoid poststudy effects. We also describe a 0.5-mm jewelry cord harness for geolocators that provides a firm fit for >1 yr. Neither harness type requires plastic or metal tubes, rings, or other attachment fixtures on the marker, nor do they require crimping beads, epoxy, scissors, or tying knots while handling birds. Both harnesses add 0.03 g to the mass of markers for small wood-warblers (Parulidae). This minimal additional mass is offset by trimming transmitter antennas or geolocator connection nodes, resulting in no net mass gain for transmitters and 0.02 g added for geolocators compared with conventional harness methods that add >0.40 g. We and others have used this transmitter attachment method with several small songbird species, with no effects on adult and fledgling behavior and survival. We have used this geolocator attachment method on 9-g wood-warblers with no effects on return rates, return dates, territory fidelity, and body mass. We hope that these improvements to the design and deployment of the leg-loop harness method will enable the safe and successful use of these markers, and eventually GPS and other tags, on similarly small songbirds.
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Vol. 117 • No. 2