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A novel use of passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags as nest markers

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Double-observer methodology requires independent collection of data to accurately estimate population parameters. Use of visual nest markers to facilitate matching, relocating, and monitoring nests as part of a double-observer study violates this assumption, but few reliable alternatives exist, especially when working with cryptic nests and high nest densities in homogeneous habitat. We used passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags to nonvisually mark the nests of ground-nesting birds at the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in western Alaska in a double-observer study of nest density. We marked 70 nests with PIT tags and naïve observers subsequently detected tags at 44 of 50 re-scanned nests (88% correct identification). Failed detections were likely due to either suboptimal tag orientation or tags falling through nest material, and such failures may be an inherent, but uncommon, feature of this nest-marking technique. PIT tags facilitated nest monitoring among independent observers, uniquely and reliably marked nests, provided a minimum of cues to potential nest predators, and allowed us to estimate densities in a double-observer framework while not violating assumptions. These tags should be useful in other studies of nesting birds where nonvisual, reliable nest markers are needed, and they provide a new tool for double-observer studies.
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Keywords: PIT tag; Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge; double-observer; nest marker; passive integrated transponder; shorebird

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 346, Bethel, Alaska 99559, USA

Publication date: 2007-03-01

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