Survival and reproduction of adult snowy owls tracked by satellite

Authors

  • Jean-François Therrien,

    Corresponding author
    1. Département de biologie and Centre d'études nordiques, 1045 avenue de la Médecine, Université Laval, Québec, QC, G1V 0A6, Canada
    Current affiliation:
    1. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, 410 Summer Valley Road, Orwigsburg, PA, 17961, USA.
    • Département de biologie and Centre d'études nordiques, 1045 avenue de la Médecine, Université Laval, Québec, QC, G1V 0A6, Canada
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  • Gilles Gauthier,

    1. Département de biologie and Centre d'études nordiques, 1045 avenue de la Médecine, Université Laval, Québec, QC, G1V 0A6, Canada
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  • Joël Bêty

    1. Département de biologie, chimie et géographie and Centre d'études nordiques, 300 Allée des Ursulines, Université du Québec à Rimouski, Rimouski, QC, G5L 3A1, Canada
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  • Associate Editor: Marc Bechard

Abstract

Satellite telemetry can provide valuable information on spatial ecology of animals, especially in species inhabiting remote areas such as the Arctic. However, caution is always needed when selecting transmitter size and attachment methods because of the potential negative impact of the device itself on individuals. We determined survival and reproductive performance of adult female snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus) tracked by satellite to evaluate potential adverse effects of transmitters. In summer 2007, we captured 12 adult females on their nest in the Canadian Arctic, marked them with 30-g harness-mounted transmitters, and tracked their movement for up to 3 years. All marked birds resumed normal activities shortly (<60 min) after release and none deserted their nest. We had 2 known deaths and 2 transmitters that stopped moving over 3 years, yielding an annual survival rate between 85.2 ± 7.0% and 92.3 ± 5.7%. Moreover, summer movement patterns, combined with ground checks in several cases, suggested that all successfully tracked birds initiated a nest every year after marking. Finally, laying date and clutch size of individuals did not differ before and after marking. Overall, our data indicate that life history traits of adult female snowy owls were not affected by satellite transmitters. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.

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