Using results from avian tracking studies to inform assessments of offshore wind energy areas in the US Atlantic

Pamela Loring and Caleb S Spiegel, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Migratory Birds, Hadley, MA, United States
Since 2012, USFWS Division of Migratory Birds and partners have conducted avian tracking studies with funding from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. This presentation highlights key results from these studies and applications to assessments of offshore wind energy areas in the US Atlantic. These efforts include tracking over 400 Northern Gannets, Red-throated Loons, and Surf Scoters using satellite and cellular GPS tags to determine spatial and temporal use offshore. In addition, we used digital VHF transmitters and an array of automated radio telemetry stations from MA to VA to track regional movements and flight altitudes of Common Terns (n=266), Roseate Terns (n=150), Piping Plovers (n=150), and Red Knots (n=388). Recently, we marked Common Terns new lightweight (2-g) satellite and GPS transmitters capable of tracking movements and flight altitudes over a larger portion of the US Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. These studies address information gaps for listed and priority seabird and shorebird species found in nearshore and offshore areas of the U.S. Atlantic throughout the annual cycle. Study products are contributing to the National Ocean Data Portal, a marine spatial planning mapping and data tool widely used to inform coastal and marine management. Current efforts are underway to deploy digital VHF tracking stations on offshore wind turbines and buoys for fine-scale monitoring of wind energy areas, and to develop guidance for regional, coordinated deployment of tracking equipment offshore. New efforts for integrating avian tracking data into a stochastic collision risk modeling approach for assessments of offshore lease areas in the U.S. Atlantic will also be discussed.