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Seabird Information Synthesis for the South Atlantic Bight

The South Atlantic Planning Area extends from the North Carolina/South Carolina border to Palm Bay Florida and out to ~400 kilometers (km) from shore. The study area is generally characterized by a wide continental shelf (40-140 km) that is bordered to the east by the Gulf Stream. This is in contrast to adjacent areas to the north and south, such as Cape Hatteras and the central and southern peninsular regions of Florida, where the shelf is considerably narrower and where the Gulf Stream is much closer to the coast. The composition of the avifaunal community of the study area is driven to a large extent by the pelagic, nearshore, and coastal characteristics of the region.


A recent synthesis of oceanographic data for the South Atlantic Bight is lacking and this is particularly true for avian taxa in this region. Clapp et al. (1982) composed distributions of marine birds from records dating until the early 1980s but no comprehensive synthesis has been conducted since. The need for such a synthesis is warranted given the increase in human activity within this zone (e.g. commercial and recreational fisheries) and proposed or experimental activities focused on energy development. Furthermore the region supports a wide array of breeding and migratory seabirds, many of which are declining or have population trends of unknown trajectories. In many cases research on these species has been minimal and not always made available in easy-to-access outlets.


The focus of this synthesis is predominantly on seabirds but wading birds, shorebirds, and wintering sea ducks and their associates are also addressed. The goals are to define how each group is treated for the purposes of this document, provide examples of species included in the group from both within and outside of the South Atlantic Planning Area, and review basic life-history characteristics that are most common within those groups, with specific emphases on characteristics that are relevant to the time each group spends in the study area.


Patrick Jodice, USGS South Carolina Cooperative Research Unit / Clemson University

Joseph Tavano, Clemson University

Will Mackin, University of North Carolina


This research is being funded by BOEMER through a subcontract with Research Planning Inc.


Jodice, P.G.R., J. Tavano, W. Mackin. 2013. Chapter 8: Marine and coastal birds and bats. Pages 475-587 In: Michel, J. (ed.). South Atlantic information resources: data search and literature synthesis. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, New Orleans, LA. OCS Study BOEM 2013-01157.

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