Radio Transmitters did not Affect Apparent Survival Rates of Adult Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus)

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Assessments of possible adverse effects of transmitters on marked individuals is an important component of individual-based tracking studies, particularly for species that are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The breeding and post-breeding movements of adult Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) from the federally-threatened Atlantic Coast Population were studied by gluing miniature, 1.0-g, digital VHF radio-transmitters on their interscapular region. Mark-resighting data from 2015-2018 was used to estimate apparent survival rates for 289 adult Piping Plovers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey in order to compare survival estimates between individuals with a transmitter attached and control individuals without a transmitter. Cormack-Jolly-Seber models were used for live-encounter data in a Bayesian framework to estimate apparent survival rates based on resightings of uniquely marked individuals. There was no evidence that mean apparent survival rates differed between adults with transmitters (0.756; 95% CI = 0.611 - 0.877) and without transmitters (0.673; 95% CI = 0.607 - 0.740). In addition, there was no evidence of differences in apparent survival rates between breeding location (state) or years. This study provides further evidence that radio transmitters glued temporarily to the inter-scapular region can be an effective tool to monitor local and regional movements of sensitive shorebirds, such as Piping Plovers.

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