Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
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Using Coded Radio Tags to Track Common and Arctic Tern Foraging Behavior
Northeast Region, July 31, 2013
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Coded radio tag receiving station
Coded radio tag receiving station - Photo Credit: Linda Welch USFWS
Arctic tern with nanotag
Arctic tern with nanotag - Photo Credit: Linda Welch USFWS

Biologists at Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge are using coded radio tags (nanotags) and automated receiving stations to document common and Arctic tern foraging and migratory behavior. In mid-June the Refuge deployed 30 nanotags on terns nesting on Petit Manan Island.


We also erected four receiving stations on nearby islands to track the birds’ movements during foraging trips around the breeding colony. Data generated by this project will allow us to determine the number of foraging trips per day, duration of foraging trips, maximum distance traveled per trip, flight direction on each foraging trip, and nest site attendance patterns during incubation and chick rearing.

The Refuge is partnering with researchers at Acadia University in Canada to compare foraging behavior among three seabird colonies. Receiving stations erected in Canada and Massachusetts will hopefully detect the Petit Manan Island terns when they depart the region for the fall migration. The receiving stations will remain in place after the seabird season, to assist cooperators in Canada and Maine who will be tagging shorebirds, passerines, saw-whet owls and bats to better understand migration patterns along the Maine coast.

Contact Info: Beth Goettel, 207-594-0600, beth_goettel@fws.gov
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