Bradley, D.W., Ninnes, C.E., Valderrama, S.V. & Waas, J.R. (2011). Does ‘acoustic anchoring’ reduce post-translocation dispersal of North Island robins? Wildlife Research, 38(1), 69-76.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5227
Context: Animal translocations are an important conservation tool; however, post-release dispersal can hinder successful population establishment. Playback of conspecific song attracts dispersing individuals in some species, although its application following animal translocation has yet to be rigorously investigated. Aims: To determine whether conspecific song can be used as an ‘acoustic anchor’, we adopted an experimental approach during the translocation of 60 North Island robins (Petroica longipes). Methods: At one of two release locations, we broadcast song at natural rates from four speakers (4 h per morning), for 9 days following release; we set the second release location as a control where identical conditions were established but no playback occurred. To assess the impact of playback, we monitored speaker and control locations, surveyed tracks around the release areas, and radio-tracked robins over nine playback days and an additional 9 days. Key results: Most robins left both immediate release areas; however, our results showed that (1) more robins (6 birds on 14 of the 18 days), in particular females (3 birds), approached the playback location than the ‘flagged’ control location (3 male birds on 5 of the 18 days), (2) individual robins returned to the playback location repeatedly, unlike those at the control site, and (3) robins also visited the playback location longer after playback than they did silent control locations. In contrast, radio-telemetry data from five robins suggested that general dispersal was not influenced by playback. Two radio-tracked females moved over long distances (some to >3 km from their release location), whereas two radio-tracked males remained relatively close to the release sites. Conclusions: We demonstrated a short-term attraction effect of playback over a period of several weeks for some birds, particularly females. In contrast, we detected fewer birds over a shorter period at the silent control release site, where no females were detected. However, long-term monitoring at both sites suggested that the effect of playback on reducing post-release dispersal was transitory. Implications: The lack of a clear and lasting effect of acoustic anchoring on dispersal in the present study has provided information on the limited utility of song playback as a conservation management tool for this species. Consideration of the species’ ecology and suitability for ‘acoustic anchoring’ must be made before playback is employed as a conservation measure to reduce excess post-translocation dispersal.