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Wintering movements and habitat use of Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) in the mid-Atlantic U.S.

January 1, 2015

Wintering habitat use and migratory pathways are key issues facing sea ducks in the mid-Atlantic U.S. and elsewhere due to the potential for offshore wind energy development. A comprehensive understanding of important winter habitats and environmental characteristics determining sea duck abundance and distribution is paramount in advising marine spatial planning efforts in the region and identifying key resource areas for sea ducks. We captured and tracked 101 Surf Scoters to investigate the spatial patterns, temporal patterns, and environmental variation in migration and winter habitat use through a combination of satellite telemetry data and remotely collected environmental covariate information. We found that Surf Scoters in core-use areas utilized shallow (<40 m) areas within 4.5 km from shore. Resource selection models suggest that other dynamic variables such as sea surface temperatures, productivity, and salinity (and selected interactions among them) may also be important in determining valuable scoter habitat. Migration chronology of birds tracked in this study suggests that Surf Scoters wintering and migrating throughout the mid-Atlantic region could encounter future offshore wind energy facilities between mid-October and early May. Our analyses indicate Surf Scoters tagged along near-shore areas of the mid-Atlantic have a minimal likelihood of overlapping with current Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) in the mid-Atlantic, though activities associated with construction within WEAs, such as installation of transmission lines or vessel traffic within nearshore areas, or possible development of wind farms closer to shore and outside currently designated WEAs, may have a higher likelihood of overlapping with wintering Surf Scoters in the mid-Atlantic.

Publication Year 2015
Title Wintering movements and habitat use of Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) in the mid-Atlantic U.S.
Authors Dustin Meattey, Lucas Savoy, Andrew Gilbert, Jeffrey Tash, Carrie E. Gray, Alicia Berlin, Christine Lepage, Scott Gilliland, Timothy D. Bowman, Jason Osenkowsi, Caleb Spiegel
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Index ID 70189460
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center