Influence of individual biological traits on GPS fix-loss errors in wild bird tracking
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In recent decades, global positioning system (GPS) location data and satellite telemetry systems for data transmission have become fundamental in the study of basic ecological traits in wildlife biology. Evaluating GPS location errors is essential in assessing detailed information about the behaviour of an animal species such as migration, habitat selection, species distribution or foraging strategy. While many studies of the influence of environmental and technical factors on the fix errors of solar-powered GPS transmitters have been published, few studies have focussed on the performance of GPS systems in relation to a species’ biological traits. Here, we evaluate the possible effects of the biological traits of a large raptor on the frequency of lost fixes—the fix-loss rate (FLR). We analysed 95,686 records obtained from 20 Bearded Vultures Gypaetus barbatus tracked with 17 solar-powered satellite transmitters in the Pyrenees (Spain, France and Andorra), between 2006 and 2019 to evaluate the influence of biological, technical, and environmental factors on the fix-loss rate of transmitters. We show that combined effects of technical factors and the biological traits of birds explained 23% of the deviance observed. As expected, the transmitter usage time significantly increased errors in the fix-loss rate, although the flight activity of birds revealed an unexpected trade-off: the greater the proportion of fixes recorded from perched birds, the lower the FLR. This finding seems related with the fact that territorial and breeding birds spend significantly more time flying than non-territorial individuals. The fix success rate is apparently due to the interactions between a complex of factors. Non-territorial adults and subadults, males, and breeding individuals showed a significantly lower FLR than juveniles-immatures females, territorial birds or non-breeding individuals. Animal telemetry tracking studies should include error analyses before reaching any ecological conclusions or hypotheses about spatial distribution.
Is part ofScientific Reports, 2020, vol. 10, article number 19621
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Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as cc-by (c) García-Jiménez, Ruth et al., 2020
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