Marine birds

By:  and 
Edited by: Donald W. Hood and Steven T. Zimmerman


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In this chapter we review existing knowledge of marine birds in the Gulf of Alaska. Three estuarine systems in the Gulf provide critical habitat for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl: 1) the Stikine River Delta, 2) Cook Inlet, and 3) the Copper River Delta. Over 20 million waterbirds are estimated to use the latter system during spring migration. Western sandpipers, dunlin, and northern pintails numerically dominate this migration. Breeding populations of shorebirds and waterfowl in the Gulf are small compared with those elsewhere in Alaska. Of those Gulf regions suitable for nesting waterfowl and shorebirds, the Copper River Delta is the most important. Species diversity and the number of shorebirds wintering in the Gulf are low; however, water- fowl wintering in the Gulf number at least in the low millions. These birds concentrated in sheltered, near-shore regions where their epibenthic and infaunal prey are accessible.

Over nine million seabirds (twenty-six species) nest in the Gulf of Alaska at more than 800 sites. Seabird productivity varies markedly. Food availability seems to have a large influence on reproductive success, especially for surface-feeding species such as the black-legged kittiwake. Seabird densities are highest over shelf and shelf-break habitats during spring migration and in summer. Sooty and short-tailed shearwaters dominate the pelagic avifauna both numerically and in terms of biomass. Seabird densities are generally lower in winter than in summer as a result of both a southward migration of some species and offshore dispersal of others. A variety of prey species are used by seabirds in the Gulf; of these, capelin, sand lance, and euphausiids are of greatest importance. Trophically, seabirds in the Gulf range from near primary con- sumers to third-order carnivores, ingesting an estimated 1,120,000 mt during the 120-day summer period.

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Marine birds
Chapter 16
Year Published 1986
Language English
Publisher U.S. Department of Commerce
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 46 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title The Gulf of Alaska: Physical environment and biological resources
First page 479
Last page 524
Public Comments Minerals Management Service publication number: OCS study, MMS 86-0095
Country United States
State Alaska
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