Large-bodied soaring birds pose a serious threat to aircraft and human life when birds and planes collide, as demonstrated by the 1998 loss of an Iowa Air National Guard F-16 to a flock of American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) south of Ainsworth, Nebraska. Accordingly, the Raptor Research Center (RRC) at Boise State University and the Center for Conservation Research and Technology at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (CCRT) developed a model to predict soaring bird flight patterns for the Department of Defense’s Legacy Environmental Program. Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada’s Lahontan Valley is the U.S. Navy’s premier naval air training facility. From April through September, thousands of American White Pelicans forage in the extensive Lahontan Valley wetlands within the Air Station’s military operating area. In 1996-97 we outfitted 17 pelicans with satellite received transmitters, which also incorporated altitude sensors and conventional telemetry technology. These birds were tracked by auto and light aircraft as they made cross-country soaring flights between a large pelican colony at Pyramid Lake, Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge and other wetland foraging sites. Altitude data were recorded continuously during these flights and integrated with detailed meteorological observations.
Tracking these individuals via satellite allowed us to also document the subjects’ local and continental movements as depicted on these maps. More detail is provided in this publication. *
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