Implanted biologging devices, such as satellite-linked platform transmitter terminals (PTTs), have been used widely to delineate populations and identify movement patterns of sea ducks. Although in some cases these ecological studies could reveal transmitter effects on behavior and mortality, experiments conducted under controlled conditions can provide valuable information to understand the influence of implanted tags on health and physiology. We report the clinical, mass, biochemical, and histological responses of captive Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima) implanted with PTTs with percutaneous antennas. We trained 6 individuals to dive 4.9 m for their food, allowed them to acclimate to this dive depth, and implanted them with PTTs. We collected data before surgery to establish baselines, and for 3.5 mo after surgery. The first feeding dive took place 22 hr after surgery, with 5 of 6 birds diving to the bottom within 35 hr of surgery. Plumage waterproofing around surgical sites was reduced ≤21 days after surgery. Mass; albumin; albumin:globulin ratio; aspartate aminotransferase; β1-, β2-, and γ-globulins; creatine kinase; fecal glucocorticoid metabolites; heterophil:lymphocyte ratio; and packed cell volume changed from baseline on one or more of the postsurgery sampling dates, and some changes were still evident 3.5 mo after surgery. Our findings show that Common Eiders physiologically responded for up to 3.5 mo after surgical implantation of a PTT, with the greatest response occurring within the first few weeks of implantation. These responses support the need for postsurgery censor periods for satellite telemetry data and should be considered when designing studies and analyzing information from PTTs in sea ducks.
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Vol. 118 • No. 3