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The Project

The American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana) is a large shorebird that specializes in using temporally unpredictable wetlands of the arid western United States.  This species breeds in large numbers within the wetlands of Great Salt Lake (Robinson et al. 1997).  Inland populations are migratory, however our current understanding of timing and routes of migration is limited.  Available data suggests most birds nesting in the Great Basin migrate south to Mexico and to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts (Robinson and Oring 1996).  Data are also lacking on the size of migratory groups, the speed and timing of migration, and stopover locations.  The population of American Avocets breeding at Great Salt Lake, UT is estimated at 94,000 adults (Paul et al. 2003).

The tracking of migratory birds with the use of satellites is possible with the use of platform transmitter terminals (PTT).  The PTTs transmit basic data about their functioning that is picked up by satellites and thus provides the positions of the PTT and the bird carrying it.  These allow for the identification of migration routes, timing and speed of migration, stopover areas, and wintering locations for birds (e.g. Kooyman 2002, Kessler et al. 2013).  PTTs have a 2-5 year lifespan and are capable of transmitting data instantaneously to satellites that can then be retrieved from a desktop computer. Given recent advancements in this technology and the need to increase understanding of migration ecology for American Avocets, we began this study during the summer of 2014.  This study will allow for an initial assessment of the feasibility of using PTT technology to increase understanding of migration ecology and promote conservation and management of this important shorebird. Specific objectives and methods are outlined below.


  1. Describe phenology of migration and identify migration routes.
  2. Identify stopover areas and preferred wintering habitat.
  3. Assess how American Avocet utilize Great Salt Lake during the
    breeding period.