Tracking Great Shearwaters

Great Shearwater © Rob MacDonald
Great Shearwater © Rob MacDonald

Since 2013 Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (Stellwagen Bank NMS) scientists, led by Dr. David Wiley and Michael Thompson, have conducted a multi-institutional team to investigate the foraging ecology and health of Great Shearwater seabirds in and around the Stellwagen Bank and the wider Gulf of Maine.

The team uses bait to attract birds near the sanctuary’s research vessels and benignly captures them using long-handled dip nets. Captured birds are weighed and measured. Wing measurements are taken to help standardize body weight data and model flight patterns. Then the birds are fitted with small, 15 gram satellite tags, which allow for fine-scale tracking of the birds throughout the Gulf of Maine and beyond. 

Some birds have been tracked to their wintering grounds along the Patagonia Shelf, while other have been tracked to areas off Great Britain and Portugal.

For 2019, Stellwagen Bank NMS named 9 of the birds they are tracking after Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries including:

  • Allens Pond
  • Felix Neck
  • Ipswich River
  • Joppa Flats
  • Long Pasture
  • North River
  • Pleasant Valley
  • Tidmarsh
  • Wellfleet Bay

Follow along on their journeys