How are you testing the harnesses’ fit?
The replica devices and harnesses weigh between 1.8 grams and 2 grams—less than a dime! Our birds weigh between 55 grams and 65 grams, so together the device and harness weigh less than 3 to 5% of the birds’ body weight. To put it another way, that is like a 160-pound person carrying a backpack that weighs 5-to-8 pounds.
Only single male siheks are participating in this study. At SCBI, those birds include some that you have read about in our recent blogs, including Fuesta, Animu, Gekpu, Chubasca, Antonio and Aprile! For each phase of the study, four birds are fitted with transmitters and the remaining two are in our control group.
To test which harnesses work best, we are looking at several different elements. Do the harnesses stay on the birds for 90 days—the life of the battery that will be used in the real transmitter? Siheks have very strong bills—are they able to remove the transmitter before it is meant to fall off? Lastly, does the presence of the transmitter change the birds’ behavior? We monitored their behavior before they were fitted and afterwards to see if there were any changes in their daily preening, foraging and resting activities.
The trial is ongoing, but the goal is for our birds to wear the harnesses for 3 months. Gekpu is the only bird currently still wearing a harness in Phase 2 of the study.