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We all put a lot of effort into refining our field methods, but there is no reason for each research team to completely reinvent the wheel. One of our objectives is to improve upon conventional methods and develop new methods to make avian ecology research go more smoothly. We will update this page periodically with instructional materials on what we find works, and likely some information on what we find doesn't work.

Transmitters and Geolocators on Small Songbirds

If you are planning a radio telemetry or geolocation study with small songbirds, or you've started one and are looking for better methods, you've come to the right place. Our group has marked hundreds of adult, nestling, and fledgling songbirds with backpack markers and we've developed efficient methods that minimize marker mass, minimize the time needed to deploy markers in the field, and have demonstrated success in not affecting behavior, productivity, and survival of marked birds. After a lot of reading, video watching, and speaking with other researchers we found that there are about as many ways to employ Rappole and Tipton's (1991) figure-eight harness design as there are research projects, and most of them are unnecessarily complicated, massive, and time consuming. Following success with our methods for marking golden-winged warblers (~9g) with geolocators with no effects on return rates, dates, mass, etc., the U.S.G.S. Bird Banding Laboratory requested that we publish our methods and provide instructional materials for widespread use in the ornithology community.


The Powerpoint presentation and video below are meant to accompany our 2015 paper published in Condor: Ornithological Applications, and if you use these methods it is appropriate to cite the references below. Please see our Publications page for additional papers reporting research in which these methods were used and demonstrated to work very well.


Streby, H.M., T.L. McAllister, G.R. Kramer, S.M. Peterson, J.A. Lehman, and D.E. Andersen. 2015. Minimizing marker mass and handling time when attaching radio transmitters and geolocators to small songbirds. Condor: Ornithological Applications (in press, see Condor website for volume and page numbers).


Rappole, J.H. and A.R. Tipton. 1991. New harness design for attachment of radio transmitters to small passerines. Journal of Field Ornithology 62:335–337.

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