Habitat affinities and at-sea ranging behaviors among main Hawaiian Island seabirds: Breeding seabird telemetry, 2013–2016

BOEM
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Abstract

Recent Hawaiʻi state clean energy policy mandates and federal interest in developing offshore renewable energy resources have prompted unsolicited lease requests for offshore wind energy infrastructure (OWEI) to be located in ocean waters off Hawaiʻi. This study describing at-sea ranging behaviors for five seabirds was intended to provide new information on Hawaiian breeding seabird distribution at sea, habitat utilization, and ranging behaviors within near-island waters and throughout outer continental shelf (OCS) waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI). We also estimate the percentage of time the five study species spent flying at altitudes equivalent to an expected rotor-swept-zone (RSZ; 30–194 m) for an offshore wind turbine and discuss potential collision risk from OWEI to the seabirds studied here. The MHI supports important seabird breeding populations and individual seabirds can now be equipped with a wide-variety of data loggers and location tracking devices that can provide complex, high-resolution information on movement patterns at sea. In this study, we used GPS loggers and temperature-depth-recorders (TDRs) to examine the at-sea distributions and ranging behaviors of five abundantly breeding species in the MHI: Red-tailed Tropicbird, Laysan Albatross, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Brown Booby, and Red-footed Booby. We tracked these breeding seabirds from 14 different sites throughout the MHI; study colonies were located on the main islands of Maui, Oʻahu, Kauaʻi, and on associated islets. We used the Residence in Space and Time (RST) algorithm to classify behavior into resting, transiting, and searching/foraging (Torres et al. 2017). We used GPS altitude measurements to examine species-specific flight height and to estimate time spent flying in the RSZ. We mapped rediscretized tracking data for seabirds at each study colony according to behavioral class and trip type (when applicable) using kernel density estimates. During 2014–2016, we obtained GPS and TDR data from 59 and 34 Red-tailed Tropicbirds, respectively. Taken together, individuals revealed a bimodal (short- [~3 h, <100 km range] and long- [>3 d, >800 km range]) trip foraging strategy. While ranging at sea, we estimated that Red-tailed Tropicbirds spend 70.6% (95% confidence interval [CI] 70.1–71.0%) of flight time in the RSZ. TDR data for tropicbirds was noisy and we could not reliably identify dives. During 2014 and 2016, we obtained GPS data from 35 Laysan Albatrosses nesting on Kauaʻi and Oʻahu. Individuals during the mid- to late-chick rearing period engaged in a bimodal short- (<6 d, <400 km range) and long- (>6 d, >2,000 km range) trip foraging strategy. While ranging at sea, we estimated that Laysan Albatrosses spend 2.57% (95% CI 2.50–2.64%) of flight time in the RSZ. During 2013–2015, we obtained GPS and TDR data from 313 and 55 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, respectively. Considering all the data together, individuals revealed a multi-modal trip duration foraging strategy consisting of intra-day (<24 h, <100 km range), short (<4 d, ~200 km range), and long (>4 d, ~100–400 km range) trips. While ranging at sea, we estimated that Wedge-tailed Shearwaters spend 5.20% (95% CI 5.13–5.27%) of flight time in the RSZ. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters dove to a mean (± SD) depth of 1.78 ± 1.35 m (median = 1.38 m); the deepest dive recorded was to 10.06 m. The mean dive duration for Wedge-tailed Shearwaters was 3.12 ± 3.44 s (median = 1.80 s). During 2014–2015, we obtained GPS and TDR data from 42 and 37 Brown Boobies, respectively. Almost all foraging trips (97%) were single-day trips and we did not detect any bimodality in the distribution of single-day trip durations. Brown Boobies foraged relatively close to their colony (<60 km range) and focused their at-sea use in nearshore, coastal waters off Kauaʻi and Niʻihau. While foraging at sea, we estimated that Brown Boobies spend 3.41% (95% CI 3.16–3.67%) of flight time in the RSZ

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Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Title Habitat affinities and at-sea ranging behaviors among main Hawaiian Island seabirds: Breeding seabird telemetry, 2013–2016
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher BOEM
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description viii, 111 p.
Country United States
State Hawaii
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