The effects of geolocator drag and weight on the flight ranges of small migrants

Melissa Bowlin, Per Henningsson, Florian Muijres, R H E Vleugels, F Liechti, Anders Hedenström

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. Researchers are currently placing hundreds of geolocators on migratory animals. Return rates for some small birds carrying these devices have been lower than expected, potentially because geo- locators increase drag during flight. 2. We measured the drag of three different geolocators (1 2g BAS-MK10, 1 0 g SOI-GL10 09 and 0 5 g SOI-GL05 10) in backpack-style harnesses on two preserved bird bodies in a wind tunnel.We then used these measurements to estimate the effects of this drag on the flight ranges of several small migratory birds. 3. Both theBAS-MK10 and SOI-GL05 10 significantly increased drag; the drag was also consider- ably higher when a geolocator was attached between the wings (wing harness) than on the rump (leg-loop harness). 4. The effects of the increased drag of these devices on the predicted flight ranges of birds were simi- lar to the effects of their weight and may thus explain the results of previous studies that showed decreased return rateswhen using geolocators and other tracking devices. 5. We recommend that researchers and manufacturers work to minimize the drag of geolocators and other externally attached tracking or data collection devices on flying and swimming animals. This can be accomplished with geolocators by attaching devices above birds rumps instead of between their wings and flattening the devices to reduce their height.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-402
JournalMethods in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Biological Sciences


  • attachment methods
  • geologger
  • light logger
  • migration
  • radiotransmitter


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