Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: South Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

South Carolina Project

Response of nearshore seabirds to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

June 2010 - December 2011


Participating Agencies


This research will be a component of the NRDA avian injury assessment at the Gulf of Mexico – Mississippi Canyon oil spill. We will oversee the capture, sampling, and placement of transmitters on targeted shorebirds, seabirds, and beach nesting birds. Telemetry will allow monitoring to determine the rate of mortality in sublethally oiled birds. The primary species of interest are brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), royal tern (Sterna maxima), and black skimmer (Rynchops niger). Satellite tags with activity sensors, VHF tags with mortality switches, microGPS tags, or geolocators will be deployed to evaluate survival and movement. The type of device deployed will be chosen based on the body mass of the individual. The mass of the device will not exceed 3% of the individual’s body mass. Whenever possible, carcasses of deceased birds also will be retrieved. Health assessments of individuals that are “sub-lethally” oiled also will be conducted. Parameters to be measured will include but not be limited to total polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), glucose concentrations, and inorganic phosphorus. Data collected will be used to estimate mortality rates of adult birds, determine movement patterns, and determine habitat use patterns.