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Satellite radio telemetry was used to determine the movements and habitats of black scoters (Melanitta nigra) and surf scoters (Melanitta perspicillata) in eastern North America. A total of 21 surf scoters were instrumented during five years (2001-05) and 32 black scoters were instrumented during three years (2002-04) with implanted PTT 100 satellite transmitters (39 g) with external antenna. Nesting habitat of black scoters was more open than surf scoters (44% vs. 11%), whereas nesting habitat for surf scoters was located in more forested areas (66% vs. 20%). Locations of black scoters in breeding areas on average were at significantly higher latitude and lower elevations than sites used by surf scoters. Satellite telemetry determined that James Bay was the major molting area for male black and surf scoters, although some males molted along the coast of Labrador-Newfoundland. Black scoters instrumented on the Restigouche River, which is a major staging area, were widely distributed along the Atlantic Coast from Cape Cod to Georgia during winter. Major wintering areas for black scoters were Cape Cod (Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island), Long Island, and New Jersey. In these northern marine wintering areas, black scoters were located farther from shore (4.2 km) and in deeper water (8.3 m) than black scoters in more southern estuarine areas, where distance from shore was 3.1 km and water depth was 5.2 m. Surf scoters instrumented in Chesapeake Bay in late winter showed a strong tendency to return to the Bay the following winter after they had migrated to and from breeding areas. In Chesapeake Bay, black scoters and surf scoters were located mostly in mesohaline areas that had similar water depths (5.1 m vs. 7.5 m) and distances from shore (3.0 km vs. 2.9 km). Distance from shore and depth of water increased over time during the winter for both species. Updated information from the ARGOS Systems aboard the NOAA satellites on scoter movements was made accessible on the Patuxent Website.
Additional Publication Details
Habitats used by black and surf scoters in eastern North America as determined by satellite radio telemetry