Visual tracking from a rigid-hulled inflatable boat to determine foraging movements of breeding terns

Martin R. Perrow, Eleanor R. Skeate, James J. Gilroy

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21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Defining the at-sea foraging movements of seabirds is fundamental to understanding their ecology and can also be important in assessing the potential impact of marine developments such as offshore wind farms (OWFs). Surveys of predefined areas using aerial or boat-based transect surveys may not allow adequate assessment of the relative importance of different areas to birds. Individual-based satellite or radio-telemetry can be effective in identifying foraging ranges and preferred areas, but may not be suitable for some species. We developed a method to determine the foraging movements of breeding terns (Sterna spp.) by visually tracking individuals using a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB). Sandwich Terns (S. sandvicensis), Common Terns (S. hirundo), and Arctic Terns (S. paradisaea) were tracked from colonies in Norfolk and Anglesey, United Kingdom, from 2006 to 2008. The proportion of complete (from and to colony) trips varied from 29-60% among species, years, and colonies. Individual Sandwich Terns were tracked for periods up to 126 min over distances up to 72 km and as far as 54 km from the breeding colony, further than Arctic (up to 57 km and 29 km from the colony) and Common (to 29 km and <9 km from the colony) terns. Mean values were much smaller. Multivariate modeling of Sandwich Tern foraging trips indicated that flight speeds >50 km/hr coupled with greater distances from shore (>25 km) significantly reduced the likelihood of tracking a bird for an entire foraging trip. Use of different boats that differ in speed and performance may alleviate such issues. Visual tracking allowed us to collect data on foraging behavior, flight height, and prey capture rates, and also permitted comparisons between species. Our results indicate that visual tracking may be an effective means of determining the foraging movements and at-sea behavior of a variety of short-ranging, day-active seabirds.

Translated title of the contributionVisual tracking from a rigid-hulled inflatable boat to determine foraging movements of breeding terns
Original languageSpanish
Pages (from-to)68-79
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Field Ornithology
Volume82
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

Keywords

  • Arctic Tern
  • Common Tern
  • Foraging trip
  • Offshore wind farm
  • Sandwich Tern
  • Sterna hirundo
  • Sterna paradisaea
  • Sterna sandvicensis

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