Volume 46, No. 1

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Autumn at-sea distribution and abundance of phalaropes Phalaropus and other seabirds in the lower Bay of Fundy, Canada


1Department of Biology, Acadia University, Wolfville, NS, Canada B4P 2R6 (
2Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, 45 Alderney Dr., Dartmouth, NS, Canada B2Y 2N6


WONG, S.N.P., RONCONI, R.A. & GJERDRUM, C. 2018. Autumn at-sea distribution and abundance of phalaropes Phalaropus and other seabirds in the lower Bay of Fundy, Canada. Marine Ornithology 46: 1 - 10

Received 27 April 2017, accepted 31 August 2017

Date Published: 2018/4/15
Date Online: 2018/1/8
Key words: autumn abundance, Bay of Fundy, migration, phalaropes, seabirds, stopover


During late summer and early autumn, the Bay of Fundy, Canada, is an important foraging area for many species of post-breeding and migratory seabirds, yet there has been limited effort to quantify the number of birds using these waters. Furthermore, the numbers of phalaropes Phalaropus spp. using this region as a stopover during autumn migration is much lower than in previous decades, but an explanation of their disappearance remains elusive. We examined the species composition, abundance and distribution of seabirds using the lower Bay of Fundy during September, 2015. Aerial surveys were conducted in three regions known to encompass good habitat for seabirds: Brier Island Ledges (hereafter Brier: 622 km2), shoals southeast of Grand Manan Island (hereafter Grand Manan: 531 km2), and Lurcher Shoals/German Bank (hereafter Lurcher: 7,433 km2). Using distance sampling, detection probabilities, densities and abundance estimates were calculated for phalaropes, shearwaters (Procellariidae), Northern Gannets Morus bassanus, gulls (Laridae), storm-petrels (Hydrobatidae), and alcids (Alcidae). All species were found in higher densities in Brier and Grand Manan than in the larger area of Lurcher, with phalaropes, shearwaters, and Northern Gannets being the most numerous. Among the three regions, we estimated >100,000 phalaropes during each of two survey periods, and upwards of 30,000 shearwaters, 3,500 Northern Gannets, 2,800 gulls, 2,000 alcids, and 2,000 storm-petrels during one of the two periods. Our abundance estimates for phalaropes were similar to recent surveys, and the low numbers seen in Lurcher suggests this area is not an alternative stopover. Areas of tidal upwelling around Brier and Grand Manan islands provide important foraging habitat for a diverse community of resident and migratory seabirds, but these areas do not account for the disappearance of very large numbers of Red-necked Phalaropes P. lobatus from the nearby Passamaquoddy Bay since the 1980s.


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