Individualized markers that allow organisms to be identified without recapture are invaluable for studies of survival, movement, and behavior. Nape tags consisting of brass safety pins with unique combinations of two or three colored plastic beads were used to mark 5,868 American Coot (Fulica americana) chicks and 331 Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), 157 King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) and 664 White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca deglandi) ducklings. These markers allowed for documentation of parent-offspring interactions, post-hatching survival, brood movements and brood-mixing behaviors. Nape tags were inexpensive, easy to make, easy to observe with binoculars or spotting scopes and provided over 100 two-bead or 1,000 three-bead color combinations for individual identification. For coots, there was no evidence of color biases affecting parental care or offspring survival, although some colors (white, yellow) were easier to detect than others (brown). The only observed problem was marker loss, with tag loss rates reaching 20% near fledging age. Nape tags worked effectively on coots and ducklings and may be useful for other precocial waterbirds.
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Vol. 34 • No. 3