Effects of capture and GPS-tagging in spring on migration timing and reproduction in Pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus

Kees H.T. Schreven* (Corresponding author), Jesper Madsen, Bart A. Nolet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


Background: GPS-transmitters enable detailed study of animal behaviour but may impact the animals. Impacts vary from short-term stress and habituation to longer-term effects on e.g., migration and reproduction. To study impacts, ideally, true controls (i.e., uncaptured or untagged animals) are used, but unbiased assessments of their migration timing and breeding performance are challenging, especially in remote areas. Alternatively, quasi-controls can be used: individuals tagged longer ago, or the same tagged individuals but in later years. Quasi-controls reveal tagging effects that differ between the first and following years. Results: We captured Pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) in spring and summer and deployed GPS-transmitter neckbands. In spring, geese were caught with cannon or clap nets on stopovers in Norway and Finland, 2 weeks before departure to breeding areas in Svalbard and Novaya Zemlya. In summer, geese were rounded up during wing moult in Svalbard. First, we compared geese tagged recently in spring with geese tagged in spring or summer 1–4 years prior. Newly tagged geese migrated significantly later, by 2 days, than previously tagged geese, both at departure from the spring stopover and arrival to the breeding grounds, while migration duration did not differ. Breeding propensity and laying date did not differ, but nesting success tended to be lowered, resulting in a significantly lower annual probability to produce hatchlings in recently tagged geese than in previously tagged geese. Second, within individuals tagged in spring, spring migration advanced in their next year, suggesting delay in their first spring. This was likely not an ageing effect, as geese tagged in summer showed no advancing spring migration timing over the years. Third, in Svalbard, observed brood sizes of geese tagged in summer and untagged geese did not differ 1 year after tagging. Conclusions: The capture and GPS-tagging of geese 2 weeks before spring departure delayed their spring migration and lowered their probability to produce hatchlings in that year. These effects lasted longer than previously reported week-long effects of GPS-tagging on time budgets in summer and of neck-banding on spring body condition. Additional study is needed to evaluate longer-term or permanent effects which remain undetected with quasi-controls.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalAnimal Biotelemetry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2024


  • Arrival
  • Breeding success
  • Departure
  • Device
  • Neckband
  • Nesting
  • Propensity
  • Stopover
  • Tracking
  • Transmitter


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