CENTRAL ORNITHOLOGY PUBLICATION OFFICE
Yes, it is possible to study parrots with GPS trackers--you just have to make them beak-proof. For a new paper in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, Erin Kennedy, George Perry, and Todd Dennis of the University of Auckland and Joshua Kemp and Corey Mosen of New Zealand's Department of Conservation tested the feasibility of tracking parrots with GPS dataloggers in Arthur's Pass National Park in New Zealand. Their parrot of choice was the Kea (Nestor notabilis), a large, intelligent, mountain-dwelling bird perhaps best known for its fearless interactions with tourists and their cars.
While GPS telemetry is one of the best methods for tracking the movements of wild birds, researches have hesitated to apply it to parrots, concerned that the dataloggers may not stand up to their large crushing beaks, high manual dexterity, and curiosity. To make their tracking devices as parrot-proof as possible, Kennedy and her colleagues encased them in tough polymer and attached them to backpack harnesses before placing them on captured Keas. After a week, the researchers recaptured the study birds to remove the harnesses and assess how they were affected by wearing the devices and how well the devices performed.