The mid-Atlantic region provides important habitat for marine wildlife over the course of the year. Each season brings a unique shift in habitat characteristics and with it a new array of species reliant on the specific resources available. Despite seasonal variation, however, some nearshore areas showed persistent patterns of high species richness and abundance year-round.
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.
Fall: Seabird species composition shifted as summer residents, such as terns, shearwaters, and storm-petrels, migrated south. Winter residents, such as scoters, Northern Gannets, and Red-throated Loons, migrated into the study area from breeding grounds. Seabirds were more associated with nearshore habitats in the fall compared to winter and spring. Songbirds, shorebirds, Eastern Red Bats, and Peregrine Falcons migrated through the open waters of the study area. Cownose Rays were seen in dense migratory aggregations. Schools of forage fish were seen along the coast. Sea turtles and Bottlenose Dolphins remained through late fall, while Common Dolphins arrived in November.
Winter: Wintering seabirds occupied habitat throughout the study area, although distribution patterns varied among species. Northern Gannets were broadly distributed across the study area, while scoters (Surf Scoters, White-winged Scoters, and Black Scoters) were concentrated in nearshore regions by the bays. Small numbers of alcids (Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, Dovekies, and murres) were observed throughout the area. Baleen whales were most commonly observed during this season. Dolphin species composition shifted from Bottlenose Dolphins to Common Dolphins, which were most abundant in the winter.
Spring: High species diversity was observed in the spring.Wintering seabirds departed the study area, while summer resident seabirds arrived from breeding or overwintering areas. Bottlenose Dolphins and sea turtles also began using the study area. Songbirds, shorebirds, and raptors migrated over open waters across the region.
Summer: Breeding seabirds, such as Common Terns, were observed foraging near the shore and the mouths of the bays, while nonbreeding species, such as Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, were broadly distributed across the study area. In general, seabirds were more associated with nearshore areas in the summer. Large numbers of Cownose Rays migrated through the study area. Sea turtles and Bottlenose Dolphins were most abundant during the summer.
This study provides unique baseline data on distributions, movements, habitat use, and relative abundance of wildlife on the mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. The various methods used in this study provide the most comprehensive view to date of marine wildlife in this region. These approaches led to several key conclusions:
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