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Keywords:

  • habitat;
  • Melanitta perspicillata;
  • satellite telemetry;
  • southeast Alaska;
  • spring migration;
  • stopover;
  • surf scoter

Abstract

Habitat conditions and nutrient reserve levels during spring migration have been suggested as important factors affecting population declines in waterfowl, emphasizing the need to identify key sites used during spring and understand habitat features and resource availability at stopover sites. We used satellite telemetry to identify stopover sites used by surf scoters migrating through southeast Alaska during spring. We then contrasted habitat features of these sites to those of random sites to determine habitat attributes corresponding to use by migrating scoters. We identified 14 stopover sites based on use by satellite tagged surf scoters from several wintering sites. We identified Lynn Canal as a particularly important stopover site for surf scoters originating throughout the Pacific winter range; approximately half of tagged coastally migrating surf scoters used this site, many for extended periods. Stopover sites were farther from the mainland coast and closer to herring spawn sites than random sites, whereas physical shoreline habitat attributes were generally poor predictors of site use. The geography and resource availability within southeast Alaska provides unique and potentially critical stopover habitat for spring migrating surf scoters. Our work identifies specific sites and habitat resources that deserve conservation and management consideration. Aggregations of birds are vulnerable to human activity impacts such as contaminant spills and resource management decisions. This information is of value to agencies and organizations responsible for emergency response planning, herring fisheries management, and bird and ecosystem conservation. © 2010 The Wildlife Society