Increasingly diverse interests in commercial and recreational use of marine resources are creating new challenges for coastal ocean management. One concern of increased offshore use and development off the Oregon coast is the potential impact on marine bird populations. We summarized the primary surveys of seabird breeding colonies and at-sea distribution along the Oregon coast to describe spatial patterns in species distribution and identify gaps where additional data are needed. The abundance of breeding birds during the summer (over 1 million in total, primarily Common Murre Uria aalge and Leach’s Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa) is greatest in northern and southern Oregon due to the availability of breeding habitat on large offshore rocks and islands. While there are fewer breeding colonies along sandy shorelines, the adjacent coastal waters are still frequented by breeding birds and nonbreeding migrants, but generally in lower densities during summer. Seabird density, and likely potential interaction with offshore structures, is greatest nearshore and steadily declines to lowest levels beyond the outer continental shelf. Dynamic soaring species, however, which have a greater potential to interact with taller structures such as wind turbines, tend to be more common on the middle to outer shelf. Species composition also changes dramatically among seasons. Low flying (< 30 m above sea level) diving species dominate in most seasons, however, which has potential conservation implications for interactions with structures above and below the water’s surface. Given the abundance of storm-petrels, increased light pollution is also a concern for these and other nocturnal, phototactic species. Dramatic declines or redistributions have occurred at some breeding colonies, indicating long-term planning should consider changing habitat requirements. The greatest data needs currently include fall/winter/spring at-sea distribution, summer distribution off southern Oregon, and more accurate estimates and monitoring of burrow-nesting seabirds. Oregon’s coastal waters provide habitat for a large portion of breeding and nonbreeding marine birds along the U.S. west coast and a thorough knowledge of their spatial distribution, seasonal abundance, and migration corridors is critical for well-informed marine spatial planning.
Marine bird colony and at-sea distributions along the Oregon coast: Implications for marine spatial planning and information gap analysis
Title: Marine bird colony and at-sea distributions along the Oregon coast: Implications for marine spatial planning and information gap analysis
April 01, 2012
Document Number: NNMREC Report #2
Suryan, R.; Phillips, E.; So, K.; Zamon, J; Lowe, R.; Stephensen, S. (2012). Marine bird colony and at-sea distributions along the Oregon coast: Implications for marine spatial planning and information gap analysis. Report by Oregon State University, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and University of Washington. pp 26.