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Colony site dynamics and habitat use in Atlantic coast seabirds

January 1, 1981

Seabird colony sizes and movements were documented in the DelMarVa coastal region in 1976-1977 and in New Jersey in 1978-1979. Most colonies were found on marsh and dredge deposition islands and on barrier island beaches. For the "traditionally" beach-nesting Herring Gull, Common Tern, and Black Skimmer, larger, more stable colonies were found on barrier beaches than on marsh islands. In marsh habitats, rates of colony-site change of marsh-nesting Forster's Tern and Laughing Gulls were similar to those of the former beach nesters. Several adaptations have evolved in marsh specialists to cope with a high risk of reproductive failure due to flooding, but both Herring Gulls and Common Terns also appear to be very adaptable in nesting under various habitat conditions.

New colonies and those abandoned between years may be pioneering attempts by younger or inexperienced birds, because they are often smaller than persistent colonies, although patterns differ among areas and habitats. Colony-site dynamics are complex and result from many selective factors including competition, predation, physical changes in site structure, and flooding. The invasion of Herring Gulls into marshes along the mid-Atlantic coast has had an impact on new colony-site choice by associated seabirds.

Calculating colony-site turnover rates allows for comparisons among species, habitats, and regions and may give useful insights into habitat quality and change and alternative nesting strategies.

Publication Year 1981
Title Colony site dynamics and habitat use in Atlantic coast seabirds
Authors R.M. Erwin, J. Galli, J. Burger
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Auk
Index ID 5222209
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center