Monitoring the waterbird nesting population at Anaho Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation, Nevada, is essential to detect and evaluate changes in waterbird distribution and abundance. These data will help scientists understand how changes in these two important reserves affect waterbird populations throughout the western United States. In collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, FWS researchers evaluated various methods of obtaining population estimates for ground-nesting waterbirds at Anaho Island National Wildlife Refuge. These colonial nesting birds are sensitive to human disturbance and will abandon their nests if inappropriate population survey methods are used. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) prove to be a useful alternative to land-based or manned aircraft -based visual surveys and have the potential to be a more economical, less obtrusive, safer and more versatile means to survey the birds. High-resolution color images and feature extraction software can identify individual nesting locations for American white pelicans and other ground-nesting waterbirds.
Imagery of American white pelican nesting locations taken by the RQ-11A Raven Unmanned Aircraft System.