Counting Marine Birds in Resurrection Bay

With funding from the Ocean Alaska Science and Learning Center (U.S. National Park Service), we have been conducting nearshore vessel-based surveys on Resurrection Bay since September 2011. Every month a driver, observer and data recorder survey 44km of coastline and record all marine birds within 200m of the shore.

Surveying on a particularly sunny day!

One of the objectives of this project is to evaluate annual variability and interannual trends of the birds that utilize the nearshore environment, right outside the ASLC. With over five years of monthly survey data, we can start to understand the ‘where and when’ of a variety of marine bird species within Resurrection Bay across the seasons and years. Then, with an increased understanding of what is more typical in the Bay, if there are shifts or unusual observations from this baseline, we can examine further.

We have observed a lot of birds! Over the course of the project, we have recorded over 64,000 individuals of over 60 avian species! The most common species during the non-breeding months (September to April) is the sea duck: Barrow’s goldeneye. During the breeding season (May-August), these sea ducks move out of the bay to their breeding sites, and the species that will utilize the areas in/around Resurrection Bay for breeding return. For example, the marbled murrelet is the most abundant species during the breeding season.


Sometimes we observe rare avian sightings for the Bay, which is always so exciting. Like our last survey on January 10th, when we found two crested auklet. This species has been recorded on two of our previous surveys, in March 2016 and December 2016. The crested auklet is a seabird species that has gorgeous forward-curving forehead feathers, weighs about as much as three C batteries, and smells like tangerines during the breeding season.

Thanks for the visit to our waters, little guys!

(Photo Credits: S. Tanedo, J. Guthridge, and S. Ulman)

Written  by: Sadie Ulman

Leave a Reply