Comparing Satellite and Digital Radio Telemetry to Estimate Space and Habitat Use of American Oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) in Massachusetts , USA

  • February 1, 2017
  • by Loring, P. H., Griffin, C. R., Sievert, P. R., & Spiegel, C. S.

The use of digital VHF telemetry is expanding as a lightweight alternative to satellite-based technologies for tracking bird movements, though few studies have compared how they perform. During 2013, satellite telemetry and digital VHF telemetry were compared for estimating the length of stay and home ranges of American Oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) on their breeding grounds in Massachusetts, USA. American Oystercatchers (n = 5) were captured at their nest sites and tagged with a 9.5-g solar-powered satellite transmitter and a 1.0-g digitally coded VHF transmitter, and tracked using the Argos satellite system, an array of eight automated radio telemetry stations, and periodic land-based and aerial telemetry surveys. Estimates of mean minimum length of stay in the study area were slightly longer for satellite telemetry at 118 ± 12 days vs. digital VHF telemetry at 108 ± 11 days. Size estimates of mean (± SE) fixed kernel 95% utilization distributions were similar for satellite telemetry (22.53 ± 16.87 km2) and VHF telemetry (27.27 ± 21.58 km2). Despite a small sample size, digital VHF telemetry, when combined with automated radio telemetry stations and telemetry surveys, performed similarly to satellite telemetry for estimating timing and home range size of shorebirds on their breeding grounds.