Evaluation of Potential Offshore Wind Projects in the Northeastern U.S. on Endangered Roseate Terns: Who is at Risk and When?

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The Challenge: Terns in coastal areas of the Northeastern US likely will be impacted by construction and operation of offshore wind turbines. The “Cape Cod & Islands” (CCMA) area of Massachusetts is a particularly important area for the endangered Northwest Atlantic Roseate Tern (ROST) population as most ROSTs from throughout the breeding range (Nova Scotia to Long Island, New York) congregate there in large numbers for several months during the postbreeding staging period prior to fall migration to South America. To properly evaluate the risk to this species we need to learn more about the timing of use of the staging sites by ROSTs of different ages/breeding status.

The Science: This multi-year project will determine the temporal variation in how ROSTs use the CCMA staging areas at different times of the year and identify the habitats that are critical to Hatch Year (HY) terns preparing to make their first long-distance flight to South America.  It will build on prior PWRC research and use resighting data from colorbanded ROSTs observed both at colony sites and staging sites to establish seasonal distribution and baseline population dynamics rates for the entire NW Atlantic breeding population prior to turbine operation.

The Future: Once offshore wind turbines in the Northeastern U.S. are constructed we will be able to assess if there are changes in the use of turbine areas by the terns, and then also develop methods to determine if there is an increase in mortality of adult and/or HY ROSTs that could be the result of turbine operations.