Populations of many of North America’s sea duck species are experiencing population declines. The reason for these declines is currently unknown. In order to better evaluate sea duck populations, we need to first determine population ecology, dynamics, and potential limiting factors.
Satellite telemetry is a critical research tool, used to track individual sea ducks to important breeding, molting, migratory staging areas, and wintering locations (population delineation). Extensive satellite telemetry has been used on Pacific coast populations of sea ducks, but little information is known for the Atlantic populations of sea ducks.
The Sea Duck Joint Venture, and its various research partners, including BRI, has been capturing and equipping satellite transmitters to Atlantic wintering populations of sea duck species considered of conservation concern. These species are captured on important wintering areas or staging sites and include the Black Scoter (Melanitta Americana), Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata), White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi), and the Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis).
Currently, more than 300 sea ducks have been equipped with satellite transmitters and are providing detailed information on the locations of important breeding, molting, wintering, and staging areas, as well as defining migratory pathways. The three species of scoters and long-tailed ducks have been tracked to breeding areas between northern Quebec and east of Hudson Bay to the northern reaches of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories. Atlantic wintering scoters and long-tailed ducks generally follow three varying migration paths: 1) a coastal route along the US and Canada, through the Gulf of St. Lawrence; 2) an overland route through the Great Lakes region; and 3) an overland route through the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Tagged sea ducks appear to return to similar wintering areas each year, frequently using the same migration routes.
The Atlantic and Great Lakes Sea Duck Migration Study is continuing in 2015.
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