Download Mid-Atlantic Wildlife Studies: Distribution and Abundance of Wildlife along the Eastern Seaboard 2012-2014. This 32-page summary publication explores aspects of the mid-Atlantic ecosystem; describes our survey and analytical approaches; and presents a range of results, featuring several case studies on specific species or phenomena.
The Executive Summary for the technical report is also available here.
We deployed satellite transmitters on Surf Scoters, Northern Gannets, Red-throated Loons, and Peregrine Falcons, four species that make use of the study area in winter or during migration periods. With this method, temporal coverage is limited only by battery power and tag longevity, making it possible to track movements of individuals year-round, regardless of weather or time of day (though such data are rarely continuous due to power limitations). Satellite transmitters send location data to orbiting satellites during predetermined periods of the day. Transmitters were programmed to maximize the number of locations obtained from time periods when the birds were expected to be in the mid-Atlantic region.
Birds were captured at several locations along the east coast of North America. Surf Scoters were captured during molting, fall and spring staging, and wintering periods at several sites in the United States and Canada. Red-throated Loons were captured between January and March in the mid-Atlantic, and Northern Gannets were captured during their wintering period in the mid-Atlantic and on a breeding colony in Canada. Satellite transmitters were attached to birds externally or were surgically implanted.
Satellite telemetry data can be aggregated to identify species-specific patterns in habitat use and movement behaviors in relation to changing environmental conditions. Kernel density estimation uses locations from satellite tracked animals (point data) to estimate spatial use during specified time intervals. Random samples of daily points were pooled to create a composite map for all wintering individuals, for each species. These maps show estimated core use areas, where tagged birds spent the majority of their time (the area encompassing >50% of the daily points), and utilization distributions, in which birds spent most of their time (the area encompassing >95% of the daily points).
We also used state-space models to identify detailed behavioral patterns from tracking data. Fast, straight movements indicate transient behavior, while slower, circular movements indicate the animal is using marine resources by foraging or resting. We used movement patterns in Northern Gannets to identify the environmental conditions correlated with intensive resource use.
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