New study following Atlantic seabirds to help siting of wind turbines

Closeup of an American oystercatcher. Credit: Pam Loring, UMass
An American oystercatcher released.

By following Atlantic seabirds, federal agencies will obtain important information on bird movement and migration. Here a researcher from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, a study collaborator, releases an American oystercatcher with a backpack-style VHF (very high frequency). Credit: Pamela Loring/USFWS.

Most of this post is from an article by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management‘s Jim Woehr and Marjorie Weisskohl, originally published in the May/June 2013 edition of ECO magazine. We are managing the study, which is funded by BOEM and led by the University of Massachusetts.

University of Massachusetts student Pam Loring is the principal investigator for the study (see a post written by her last year). Photo courtesy Pam Loring.

University of Massachusetts student Pam Loring is the principal investigator for the study (see a post written by her last year). Photo courtesy Pam Loring.

In making decisions on where to permit construction of offshore Atlantic wind turbines, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is engaged with offshore wind energy permitting as well) will need information on the movements of priority bird species such as common terns and American oystercatchers up and down the east coast, from Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound south throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

The movement patterns of these two species are not well documented and, although they are not protected under the Endangered Species Act, they are species of high concern.

To help fill the information gap, BOEM recently awarded a $292,000 study to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to research the movements of these birds over the next 12 to 18 months using VHF (very high frequency) backpack transmitters.

Biologist Caleb Spiegel working on New Providence Island. Credit: USFWS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Caleb Spiegel is heading out this week with Pam this week to capture and tag American oystercatchers at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Caleb says, “The study, which our migratory bird program helped design, will test the ability of cutting edge technology, called NanoTags, to track offshore movements of the birds off southeast Cape Cod and Nantucket, with possible expansion of the work pending success of what is essentially a pilot season. Credit: USFWS

The Service, in partnership with the University of Massachusetts, will capture up to 15 American oystercatchers and 75 common terns during the nesting season, and will attach external backpack VHF NanoTag transmitters that send signals to receiving stations in and around Nantucket and southeastern Cape Cod.

Because the common tern in Nantucket Sound is commonly found in mixed flocks with the endangered roseate tern, the common tern could serve as a surrogate for that endangered species in future research.

Information gathered will improve BOEM’s ability to discriminate between sites potentially suitable for wind energy development and sites that are unsuitable because of local activity of birds of high conservation concern.

The study is scheduled for completion in 2014. For more information, read the BOEM study plan (p. 175).

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2 Comments on “New study following Atlantic seabirds to help siting of wind turbines

  1. Pingback: Birding News #22 | Prairie Birder

  2. Pingback: Little grebe and common tern | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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