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Drones provide a better method to find nests and estimate nest survival for colonial waterbirds: A demonstration with Western Grebes

August 26, 2020

Drone use in wildlife biology has greatly increased as they become cheaper and easier to deploy in the field. In this paper we describe a less invasive method of using drones and exploring their limitations for studying colonial nesting waterbirds. Western Grebes, like most colonial nesting waterbirds, can be very sensitive to human interaction. Using a 3DR Solo quad copter equipped with a high-resolution digital camera we were able to effectively map and monitor a Western Grebe breeding colony throughout the nesting period with a series of 6 flights. We were able to use drone collected aerial imagery to model nest survival while minimizing disturbance to the birds. However, we were not able to deploy the drone at all of our study sites. Our ability to effectively deploy the drone was hindered by the environmental and vegetation characteristics of a site. Drone technology can be a useful tool, especially when studying a species sensitive to human interaction. However, there researchers should carefully consider their species and study site to evaluate if a drone is the proper tool to meet their objectives.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Drones provide a better method to find nests and estimate nest survival for colonial waterbirds: A demonstration with Western Grebes
DOI 10.1007/s11273-020-09743-y
Authors Deo Lachman, Courtney J. Conway, Kerri Vierling, Ty Matthews
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Wetlands Ecology and Management
Index ID 70228924
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle

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