Avian Species

Science Center Objects

Recent development of energy resources, such as wind, oil, gas, and solar, can potentially affect landscapes in ways that require changes in avian management practices.

Each project below is associated with a type of energy production or transmission. Types of energy production or transmission are represented by the following icons:

Avian species energy icons

Abbreviations used in project descriptions are defined on the Energy and Wildife Abbrevations page.

Line

Oil and gas extraction icon

Birds and the Bakken Formation: Oil Well, Land Cover, and Species Distribution Data

Science Center: Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

USGS is leading a project to measure the effects of well development on birds in the Williston Basin in eastern Montana, western North Dakota, and South Dakota. Scientists plan to create maps that combine data on habitat conversion and species distribution to describe the effects of disturbance from oil well pads on biodiversity. Models are also being developed to display past and potential future effects of energy development on grassland birds. This information may assist managers with prioritizing areas for conservation in the Williston Basin.

 

Oil and gas extraction icon

Breeding Territory Retention in Pacific and Yellow-Billed Loons in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska

Science Center: Alaska Science Center

USGS scientists evaluated the role of breeding success and competition on territory retention by Pacific and yellowbilled loons. Annual territory retention rates were greater than 90 percent regardless of prior nesting success in a territory. Occupied territories were also frequently visited by nonbreeding loons. Yellow-billed loon results suggest there is limited habitat in the NPR–A for new territories, and the extent of breeding habitat in northern Alaska may be limiting the size of the breeding population. In contrast, Pacific loons appear more able to establish new territories outside occupied territories. Study results indicate that territory retention and apparent survival rates for both loon species are high, and chick production does not affect loon territory retention. This information may be useful for guiding future oil and gas development near yellow-billed loon nesting areas.

 

Transmission line, wind power, and oil and gas extraction icons

Effects of Energy Development on Greater Sage-Grouse and Their Predators

Science Center: Western Ecological Research Center

An increasing human footprint across ecosystems in the American West often results in disturbance to native vegetation and related changes that are favorable to generalist predator species, such as ravens. A large portion of the Great Basin supports proposed and recently developed energy transmission lines and renewable energy sources, such as geothermal energy and wind. Further energy infrastructure development could continue to fragment the contiguous sagebrush-steppe ecosystems that provide seasonal habitat for greater sage-grouse populations. USGS, in collaboration with other Federal and State agencies and private industry, is working to understand how energy development and habitat loss influence predator-prey interactions between ravens and nesting sage-grouse. This science can provide resource managers with information and tools to help develop guidelines for future energy-related projects that minimize adverse impacts on sage-grouse populations.

 

Oil and gas extraction icon

Gulf of Mexico Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species

Cooperative Research Unit: South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

GoMMAPPS, is a multiagency partnership between the BOEM, USFWS, NOAA, NOPP, and USGS with the goal of conducting broad-scale surveys of protected species to inform managers on the distribution and abundance of marine animals across seasons and years. USGS is leading efforts to provide information to GoMMAPPS on abundance, distribution, and movement patterns of sea turtles and seabirds. Some of the largest gaps in knowledge of marine turtle and seabird ecology occur in areas of heavy oil and gas use, including BOEM’s GOM Central and Western Planning Areas. Information generated by USGS and its GoMMAPPS partners can be used in support of various BOEM/BSEE activities, including oil spill risk analysis, decommissioning of oil platforms, and movements of vessels.

 

Geothermal, mining, wind power and oil and gas extraction icons

Implications of Anthropogenic Activities on Greater Sage-Grouse Populations in Nevada

Science Center: Western Ecological Research Center

USGS has initiated a study at nine sites across Nevada to answer questions related to short- and long-term effects on sage-grouse habitat selection, population vital rates, and movement patterns from disturbance caused by wind turbines, gold mining, geothermal energy production, hydraulic fracturing for oil, and transmission line development. This information can help managers develop guidelines that minimize the negative effects of these activities on greater sage-grouse and their associated habitat

 

Wind and oil and gas extraction icons

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Population and Habitat Ecology

Cooperative Research Units: Texas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

The lesser prairie-chicken currently occupies a range that includes parts of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. This species has experienced population declines due to both direct and indirect habitat loss, including conversion of native rangeland to cropland and disturbance from energy development. USGS developed a population viability analysis, or PVA model, to predict future population status of the lesser prairie-chicken in four ecoregions across the species’ range. Studies by USGS and collaborators predict habitat suitability for lesser prairie-chicken leks by exploring lesser prairie-chicken occurrence in relation to landscape characteristics, drought, and anthropogenic effects, such as distance to active wells, roads, highways, transmission lines, and tall structures. Habitat suitability models, combined with other landscape information, form the basis of a habitat assessment tool that can be used to guide siting of development projects and targeting of areas for conservation.

 

Oil and gas extraction icon

North Pacific Pelagic Seabird Survey Data

Science Center: Alaska Science Center

USGS produced the North Pacific Pelagic Seabird Database, an online resource compiling the results of 40 years of bird surveys from the United States, Canada, Japan, and Russia. The database documents the abundance and distribution of 160 seabird and 41 marine mammal species over a 26-million-square-kilometer, or 10-million-square-mile, region of the North Pacific. This database is a powerful tool for analysis and mitigation of anthropogenic effects on marine ecosystems of the Arctic and North Pacific, including the impacts of oil development and production, fisheries, and vessel traffic. Use of this tool also provides an unprecedented opportunity to study the biogeography and marine ecology of dozens of species of seabirds and marine mammals throughout their range in Continental Shelf waters of the United States.

 

Offshore wind and oil and gas extraction icons

Pacific Marine Bird and Mammal Research and Monitoring Programs

Science Center: Western Ecological Research Center

USGS and partners have gathered information about marine bird and mammal research and monitoring programs into an online database to support environmental risk assessments for species and habitats sensitive to offshore energy activities in the southern California and Washington-Oregon Planning Areas and the Hawaiian OCS of BOEM. The database includes information from programs that assessed distribution, abundance, and biology of marine birds, such as seabirds, waterbirds, sea ducks, or shorebirds, and marine mammals, such as cetaceans, pinnipeds, or sea otters. Much of the information focuses on species protected under the Endangered Species or Marine Mammal Protection Acts. This database can be easily updated as new information becomes available.

 

Oil and gas extraction icon

Potential Impacts of Future Oil and Gas Development and Climate Change on Greater Sage-Grouse in Southwest Wyoming

Science Center: Fort Collins Science Center

Oil and gas development and climate change have the potential to affect sage-grouse, but little is known about the influences these changes may have on population trajectories. USGS scientists used spatially explicit and individual-based models to simulate sage-grouse responses to changing development infrastructure by using a range of expected development intensities and restrictions. Sage-grouse responses to climate-induced vegetation changes of future climate scenarios were also simulated to evaluate the influence of climate on sage-grouse abundance and distribution. Preliminary results underscore the need to spatially evaluate multiple causes of incremental change to plan landscapes that include human activities and wildlife.

 

Oil and gas extraction icon

Raptor Nest-Site Use in Relation to Proximity to Coalbed-Methane Development in Wyoming

Cooperative Research Unit:  Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

CBM extraction is a major land use in Wyoming, and resource managers are concerned that some raptor species may be vulnerable to habitat changes caused by CBM development given the ecological requirements and population trajectories of these birds. To determine whether the 805-meter buffer around development sites implemented by the BLM is biologically meaningful in terms of raptor responses and sufficient as a protective measure, USGS scientists used data collected in the observation of nests of 12 raptor species across 9 years (2003–11) in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming, in relation to CBM development. Red-tailed hawks, burrowing owls, and long-eared owls used nests in undeveloped areas, specifically nests near CBM development, more than nests in developed areas. Although findings suggest potential avoidance of nesting in areas near CBM development by these species, other factors such as habitat preference, local prey availability, raptor density, and weather may also play a role.

 

Oil and gas extraction icon

Shale Gas Development in the Appalachians

Cooperative Research Unit: West Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Since 2005, the Marcellus Shale Formation in the Appalachian Basin has experienced exponential shale gas development, and development is projected to increase. USGS researchers and university collaborators have completed a series of studies to evaluate wildlife response to shale gas development that can help Federal and State land managers minimize effects on wildlife. The studies focused on the long-term response of an avian community in West Virginia to forest loss and fragmentation from shale gas development and the demography of Louisiana waterthrush and their benthic macroinvertebrate. Despite relatively small sitewide forest loss, waterthrush site quality and nest success declined as shale gas development increased. Results from these studies can inform best management practices for gas development.

 

Offshore wind and oil and gas extraction icons

Spatial and Foraging Ecology of Brown Pelicans in the South Atlantic Bight

Cooperative Research Unit: South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Brown pelicans are a species of concern in many States and can serve as an indicator species for marine, coastal, and estuarine ecosystem health because they interact with all three ecosystems and across a range of trophic systems. There is potential overlap between pelican use areas and proposed or existing BOEM activities around development of offshore wind, oil, or gas. Information about the fine-scale habitat use of brown pelicans in the marine environment is needed to determine the probability of pelican exposure to offshore energy development activities. USGS scientists are attaching GPS tags to pelicans in South Carolina, Georgia, and northeast Florida to assess foraging ranges, movement patterns, and migration paths. This research also complements pelican tracking efforts being conducted in the GOM.

 

Oil and gas extraction icon

Spatial and Reproductive Ecology of Brown Pelicans in the Gulf of Mexico

Cooperative Research Unit: South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

GOM contains a high density of oil infrastructure and a rich assemblage of seabirds, yet baseline data on at-sea distribution and habitat use of these species are poorly understood. The brown pelican is a focal species for studies about risk exposure in the marine environment because of its distribution, behavior, and known sensitivity to chemical and oil contaminants. To assist USFWS, BOEM, State agencies, and the Gulf of Mexico Avian Monitoring Network in developing management plans and future research and monitoring efforts, USGS is studying colony-specific movement patterns, habitat use at sea, and reproduction for brown pelicans. Movement data collected using GPS satellite tags on 85 adult pelicans breeding in the region can help resource managers assess the spatial ecology of the brown pelican.

 

Oil and gas extraction icon

Status of Seabirds and Forage Fish in Cook Inlet, Alaska

Science Center: Alaska Science Center

Seabird densities in lower Cook Inlet are among the highest in Alaska, and populations were decimated by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Large resident and migratory seabird populations are sustained by local stocks of key forage fish species. Monitoring of seabird populations and forage fish stocks in potential oil and gas lease areas is a BOEM priority, both to mitigate the impacts of development and to assess the impact of potential oil spills. In 2016, USGS initiated new studies to update knowledge gained from seabird and forage fish studies in lower Cook Inlet from 1995 to 2000, in advance of potential lease sales and associated activities in Cook Inlet during 2017 and beyond. These studies are also assessing change in seabird and fish populations following anomalous high temperatures in 2014–16.

Pair of masked boobies

Pair of masked boobies. (Credit: Lindsay Kramer, USFWS. Public domain.)