Assessment of GPS Transmitters for Use on Northern Bobwhite Quail

  • March 1, 2017
  • by Marquardt D.D., L. Scroggs, B.L. Pierce, K.L. Skow, D.D. Mote, B.A. Collier

Technological advances allow researchers to increase the quality and quantity of spatial information gathered for movement ecology and range estimation. We conducted a field experiment to assess accuracy of PinPoint GPS transmitters for use on small avian species using northern bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) as our test species. We conducted a series of static tests to evaluate relative impacts of canopy cover across a suite of data collection schedules. We also evaluated GPS units on 6 wild northern bobwhite quail trapped in north-central Texas. Radial error estimates from static tests indicated an overall mean spatial error of 39.7 m (191.7 SD; range 0–4389) between known and estimated locations. The median radial error was 2.68 m with an 85th probability quantile of 6.57 m. Less than 0.08% of locations had radial error >100 m; however, those locations significantly impacted error estimates. GPS units used for 4-day field tests of quail measured an estimated movement velocity ranging from 1.9 to 5 m min–1 with total daily movements ranging from 1200 to 2500 m. Our results suggest that accuracy of PinPoint GPS units were unbiased and similar to assessments of larger units. Additionally, we identified a combination of satellite and dilution of precision estimates which can be used to identify inaccurate locations. The units we evaluated were battery limited and likely of less use for longevity studies (multi-season tracking) which could hinder usefulness, but we see significant opportunity for evaluating short duration habitat selection and use, thermal ecology, or animal response to experimental manipulations.