Seabird Research:
Seabird Feeding Ecology
Seabird Monitoring - Summer Occurrence
Seabird Nesting Surveys - 2001
Restoration of a Common Tern Nesting Colony
Working with Other Researchers
Sick or Injured Birds
Oiled Wildlife

GMWSRS Scientific Publications
Seabird Checklist for the Grand Manan, Bay of Fundy Area
Fundy Bird Observatory

Seabird Research
Seabird Feeding Ecology.

Under the supervision of the late Dr. David Gaskin, four graduate projects focused on feeding ecology of seabirds and shorebirds in the Bay of Fundy. 

White, Louise. 1985. Body composition and fat deposition of migrant semipalmated sandpipers during autumn migration in the lower Bay of Fundy. M.Sc. University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada.

Mercier, F.M. 1983. Feeding ecology and lipid deposition in migrating northern phalaropes in the Head Harbour region, New Brunswick. M.Sc. University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada.

Braune, B.M. 1979. Feeding ecology of migrating population of Bonaparte's gulls, common terns and Arctic terns. M.Sc. University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada.

Barker, Susan. 1975. Comparative feeding ecology of Puffinus (Order Procellariformes) in the Bay of Fundy. M.Sc. University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada.

An additional study on mercury accumulation in Bonaparte's gulls was also undertaken.
Braune, Birget. 1985. Total mercury accumulation during autumn moult in Bonaparte's gulls of the Quoddy region, New Brunswick, Canada. Ph.D. University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada.

In 2005 a study was initiated by Rob Ronconi and the GMWSRS to look at feeding in greater and sooty shearwaters by capturing shearwaters and collecting small blood samples and tips of feathers. A hand thrown hoop net was designed to capture the shearwaters at sea to obtained these samples, plus basic measurements and attaching a numbered band for identification purposes. Diet could be assess on the short term (1-7 days) through analysis of fatty acids from blood samples and on the longer term (up to three months prior) by analyzing feathers for stable isotopes. Both are compounds that are found in what the birds eat and are then incorporated into their own tissues. Analyzing blood and feathers avoided having to kill the bird and examining stomach contents which was the standard technique of determining diet of seabirds in the past. These newer techniques also allow analysis of diet over a longer time frame as well. Preliminary findings for 2005 for the 46 greater shearwaters and three sooty shearwaters captured showed that the birds were eating mostly a fish diet when they were growing their feathers but a krill diet when the birds were captured. The study continued in 2006 with samples taken from 100 birds captured (90 greater shearwaters/10 sooty shearwaters) and included tracking of greater shearwaters via satellite. Transmitters were attached to six birds to follow them where they were feeding in the Bay of Fundy and potentially track their migration route to the Tristan da Cunha island group in the South Atlantic where they nest. Tracking data can be accessed on the tracking website under greater shearwaters. Funding included grants from the New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund, New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund, Baillie Fund, National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada scholarship, and donations to the GMWSRS.

DID YOU KNOW? Shearwaters are:
  • Trans-equatorial migrant seabirds; spend their lives at sea
  • Nest in the southern hemisphere
  • Common seabirds but seldom seen close to shore
  • Tube-nosed birds closely related to petrels and albatrosses
  • Come to the Bay of Fundy to feed on invertebrates such as krill and small fish
  • Can dive under water to catch their prey and often feed at night when prey is closer to the surface or during the day when the tide and/or whales, tuna or porpoises drive the prey to the surface.
  • Their long wings allow them to glide next to the water surface shearing over the water
Check publications for a complete list of scientific papers on seabird research.
Seabird Monitoring - Summer Occurrence mid Bay of Fundy.

Using opportunistic data collected primarily from whale watch vessels by Laurie Murison, the occurrence of phalaropes has been monitored (1990-present).  In addition seabird counts during commercial whale watch trips (1994-present) have been conducted. 

This information has been provided to researchers who are unable to collect such opportunistic data. For example, data have been provided for feeding locations of terns and puffins, migration of black terns from nesting colonies along the Saint John River, New Brunswick, Canada, monitoring phalarope migration and numbers, and migration of land birds over water. The data has also been mapped by Eastern Charlotte Waterways and added to their Marine Resource Mapping for Charlotte County.

Guillemots and the effects of disturbance from boat traffic - 1999.

During the summer of 1999 the Rob Ronconi and the GMWSRS studied the distribution of foraging Black Guillemots around a breeding colony at the northern tip of Grand Manan. The reactions of guillemots to boats were also studied. Surveying equipment was used to track guillemots and boats from the cliff top. At high tide guillemots foraged approximately 75m from shore. At low tide the average foraging distance from shore was 150m. The significance of this behaviour is unclear but it may be related to the distribution of prey, the changing depth of the water, the currents from the tide or a combination of these. Boat traffic can be disruptive to seabirds, especially during nesting season. They can cause birds to change daily patterns of nesting and foraging behaviour which could reduce their nesting success. Boats which passed up to 740m (810 yards) from the study site disturbed foraging guillemots, causing them to fly away. The average disruptive distance was 290m (320 yards). Also, faster boats were more disruptive to birds than slower boats. Our results suggest that lowering speed limits and requiring boats to pass further from nesting and foraging areas could reduce disturbance. At our study site, if boats passed 800m (875 yards) from shore at a maximum speed of 15km/h (9 mph) disturbance would be reduced by 90%. Reducing disturbance during chick care periods could help improve nesting success.

DID YOU KNOW? Black Guillemots are:
  • Members of the Auk family which includes Puffins, Razorbills and Murres
  • Small black seabirds, distinctive from other species by their white wings and bright red feet and mouth
  • While foraging on long narrow fish and invertebrates (primarily crustaceans, mollusks, and worms) they can dive for up to 75 seconds to depths of 30 m (100)
  • Nest among boulders, driftwood and in cracks in cliffs, close to their feeding areas
  • After incubating usually two eggs for 30 days, parents must care for the chicks for another 40 days.
Ronconi, R.A. and C. Cassady St. Clair. 2002. Management options to reduce boat disturbance on foraging black guillemots (Cepphus grylle) in the Bay of Fundy. Biological Conservation 108(3):265-271.

Seabird Nesting Surveys - 2001.

In the spring of 2001, Rob Ronconi and Sarah Wong received funding to conduct nesting seabird surveys of the Grand Manan archipelago in 2001 from the New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund, New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, and Canadian Council for Human Resources in the Environment Industry (CCHREI) - Environmental Youth Corp.. Equipment support for the project was also provided by ALERT, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Eastern Charlotte Waterways, Halltech Environmental Outfitters, and Mountain Equipment Co-op.  Rob and Sarah braved the rather chilly weather and began their study on April 17.  The Maritimes greeted them with a late snow storm the next day. 

Most of the outer islands were successfully surveyed in the archipelago.  Standardized and repeatable survey techniques which can be used for future surveys were developed.  

The fourth in our GMWSRS bulletin series "Seabird Colonies of the Grand Manan Archipelago: 2001 Census Results and Guidelines for Surveys and Future Monitoring" was produced.  

Other papers are also in preparation including: Ronconi, R.A. and S.N.P. Wong. 2003. Abundance Estimates and Changes in Seabird Numbers of the Grand Manan Archipelago, New Brunswick, Canada. Waterbirds 26(4):462-472.

Some of the findings include population estimates for black guillemots (n=1359) with 48% of these breeding primarily on Kent Island, Outer Wood Island, Southwest Head and the Bishop.  Great black-backed and herring gull colonies were estimated at 602 and 11,809 breeding pairs respectively with Kent Island supporting the largest population of herring gulls (n=5,926).  Common eider nesting females were estimated at 3,370 with Outer Wood, Great Duck and Kent Island having the highest numbers.  Four double-crested cormorant colonies were identified on three islands for a total of 147 pairs.  A single colony of eight pairs of common terns persists on Sheep Island.  Yellow Murre ledge is the only breeding colony of common murres in the Bay of Fundy/Gulf of Maine.  It was estimated 424 common murres and 281 razorbills were present on the ledge.  To avoid disturbance, counts were done remotely and actual nesting pairs could not be determined.  The difficulty of finding Leach's petrel burrows precluded cal-culating estimates of nests but breeding was confirmed on three islands and suspected on two others.  Data estimates from Bowdoin College are 25,400 petrel pairs on Kent Island for 2000-1.  Black-crowned night heron and Great Blue heron colonies, bald eagle, raven and Canada geese nests were also found.

Restoration of a Common Tern Nesting Colony.

The Fundy Bird Observatory has been working on restoring a common tern nesting colony on Sheep Island since 2002.  See the Fundy Bird Observatory page for more information.

Working with Other Researchers.

We are able to provide laboratory space and housing for researchers with advanced notice, especially in the spring and fall. We can also provide personnel and logistics for such things as surveys of winter seabird populations, Seabird Super Watch, Christmas Bird Counts (through Fundy Bird Observatory).

The following paper dealt with winter surveys for razorbills:  Huettmann, F., B. Dalzell, T. Dean, A.W. Diamond, D. MacFarlane, K. MacIntosh, L. Murison and C. Stevens.  1999. Aspects of change of wintering razorbills (Alca torda) in the lower Bay of Fundy. pp. 30-33. In  Ollerhead, J., P.W. Hicklin, P.G. Wells and K. Ramsey (eds.) Understanding change in the Bay of Fundy Ecosystem.  Proceedings of the 3rd Bay of Fundy Science Workshop, Mount Allison Univeristy, Sackville, New Brunswick, April 22-24, 1999.  Environment Canada, Atlantic Region Occasional Report No. 12, Environment Canda, Sackville, New Brunswick, 143 pp.
Sick or Injured Birds.

Our facilities are limited but we are also involved in recovery, stabilizing and redirection of injured, sick and sometimes just wet birds. We usually try to send birds to an authorized rehabilitation centre or veterinarian for proper care. Injuries range from strained wing muscles to broken bones but the cause of illnesses are often more elusive. Wet birds can be dried and released, usually the same day, and have varied from birds as small as a semipalmated plover to a greater shearwater to two American bald eagles. 

Oiled Wildlife.

We are also active in a committee (Fundy New Brunswick CAPP Committee) which deals with preparedness for oil spills along the New Brunswick shoreline and work with wildlife issues.  The Wildlife Response Resource Guide was developed to identify resources available along the New Brunswick shore which can be accessed during an emergency.  Community training of volunteers has also been organized by the committee.

GMWSRS Scientific Publications

Seabird Checklist for the Grand Manan, Bay of Fundy Area

Fundy Bird Observatory

This page designed by
Page revised September 30th 2006
GMWSRS 24 Route 776, Grand Manan, NB, Canada E5G 1A1

© Grand Manan Whale & Seabird Research Station Inc.