Date of Award

Winter 2018

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Peter J Pekins

Second Advisor

Erik Chapman

Third Advisor

John Kanter


To restore New Hampshire tern populations, the Isles of Shoals Seabird Restoration Project was initiated in 1997 by New Hampshire Audubon and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, and is currently administered through a partnership between Shoals Marine Laboratory and New Hampshire Fish Game Department. This initial program was effective and substantial numbers of common terns and lower numbers of roseate and arctic terns have returned to nest on White and Seavey Islands. Analysis of long-term productivity monitoring over 17 years indicates recent stability in the colony with approximately 2,800 nesting pairs with an average productivity rate of 1.11 chicks fledged per nest in recent years. The colony has produced approximately 38,000 chicks during the 17-year monitoring period. It’s likely that the carrying capacity of Seavey Island has been reached, possibly caused by reduced prey availability; recent annual variability may reflect expected dynamics in carrying capacity. In addition, common terns are laying earlier and extending the laying season longer, possibly in response to a warming Gulf of Maine.

GPS data loggers were attached to breeding common terns at Seavey Island to identify important foraging areas. The glue and Tesa tape method of attachment of GPS data loggers was determined inappropriate for use on common terns. The suture attachment method proved effective and reproductive success of tagged terns was not influenced negatively in comparison to a control group. Data loggers attached to 19 terns in 2015, yielded 428.8 h of activity in which 50 foraging trips occurred. Foraging occurred primarily at three locations associated with fronts that aggregate zooplankton and larval fish: the mouths of the Piscataqua and Merrimack Rivers (63%) and an offshore area approximately 20 km East of Seavey Island (28%). Other foraging locations (11%) included an area between the Isles of Shoals and the NH shoreline, the mouth of Hampton Harbor, and ~ 3 km east and 4 km northwest of the Isles of Shoals. The total combined distance traveled was 1,383 km (range = 19 to 174 km) of which 879 km (64%) were presumed foraging trips. The mean trip length was 28 ± 11 km and the mean maximum distance from the colony was 16 ± 5 km. The maximum foraging distance was 24 km and the mean trip duration 102 ± 28 min. GPS data logger technology provided important, previously unknown locations, where common terns forage in coastal NH.