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The At-Sea Ranging Behavior of Red-Tailed Tropicbirds and Potential for Interaction with Offshore Wind Energy Infrastructure

Released: 2017
Felis, J.J., J. Adams, E.J. Kelsey, M. Czapanskiy, E. VanderWerf, D.M. Pereksta. 2017. The At-Sea Ranging Behavior of Red-Tailed Tropicbirds and Potential for Interaction with Offshore Wind Energy Infrastructure. Pacific Seabird Group 44th Annual Meeting, Tacoma, WA. 22-25 February 2017.

Red-tailed Tropicbirds (Phaeton rubricauda) are common in the tropical and sub-tropical Indo-Pacific; however, little is known about at-sea ranging behavior. Approximately one third of the global breeding population nests in Hawai’i, primarily throughout the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Nesting in the main Hawaiian Islands is restricted to steep coastal cliffs and offshore islets where non-native predators are limited or absent, although these sites may become more important as rising sea levels pose an increasing threat to low lying atolls. Interest in renewable energy development is increasing around the main Hawaiian Islands and could pose threats to Red-tailed Tropicbirds. White-tailed Tropicbirds (Phaethon lepturus), which nest farther inland in the main Hawaiian Islands and have similar behavior and flight-styles as Red-tailed Tropicbirds, have been killed in collisions with existing terrestrial wind energy infrastructure, indicating potential that both species could be negatively affected by offshore wind energy development. We GPS-tracked chick-rearing Red-tailed Tropicbirds on Kaua’i and Lehua Islet (n=49, 2014-16) and on O’ahu (n=10, 2015) to collect basic and previously unknown information about their foraging ecology. Foraging trip durations ranged from short, within-day trips to longer, multi-day excursions (up to 8 days), when individuals traveled up to ~700 km from colonies. Using a behavioral classification scheme, we identified important transiting and foraging areas at-sea and quantified spatial overlap with three unsolicited lease requests for offshore wind energy development near O’ahu. Additionally, we investigated using GPS-derived flight heights to assess risk of collision of Red-tailed Tropicbirds with wind turbines according to different behavioral states.

This product is associated with the following project:
Endangered Hawaiian Seabirds

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