Project

Status and Distribution of Alaska Birds

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Project log

Bryce W Robinson
added a research item
ROBINSON, B.W., JOHNSON, A.S., LOVETTE, I.J. & ROMANO, M.D. 2019. Potential northward expansion of the breeding range of Red-legged Kittiwake Rissa brevirostris. Marine Ornithology. 47: 229-234. We report observations of ca. 200 Red-legged Kittiwakes Rissa brevirostris occupying cliff habitat on northern St. Matthew Island, and behaviors that indicate the kittiwakes were attempting to breed. This is the first documentation of Red-legged Kittiwake breeding activity on St. Matthew Island, which represents a potential northward expansion of this species' breeding range by nearly 400 km. During a month-long expedition to St. Matthew and Hall islands in June-July 2018, we observed Red-legged Kittiwakes conducting courtship behaviors, nest building and stamping, and sitting on nests at two locations on the northwest side of St. Matthew Island. We discuss our observations with respect to past observations of the species at this location, and with respect to breeding activities at the nearest known breeding locations on St. Paul and St. George islands.
Bryce W Robinson
added a research item
We report the first documentation of off-water foraging by the Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma furcata and Short-tailed Shearwater Ardenna tenuirostris, a behavior not previously documented in any member of the families Hydrobatidae or Procellariidae. Over a two-week period in September 2016, we regularly observed individuals of these species over land on an extensive intertidal zone on the Bristol Bay coast of the Alaska Peninsula. We documented irregular feeding behaviors by storm-petrels, including pattering over shallow water and sand, digging into sand to uncover food items, and feeding on beach-cast fish. We revisited the site in August 2017 and did not observe storm-petrels, but we observed four shearwaters feeding on a beach-cast fish. The aberrant feeding behaviors, paucity of stomach contents and emaciated body condition of salvaged and collected birds, together with patterns between bird occurrence and wind speed and direction, indicate to us that these birds were blown to shore while weakened by food stress or compromised health. We further suggest that these aberrant feeding behaviors may be related to massive seabird die-offs that occurred in this region during 2014–2016, die-offs in which Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels have heretofore not been reported as a species affected by this phenomenon.
Lucas H Decicco
added a research item
The geographic distribution of the non-migratory Gray-headed Chickadee (Poecile cinctus) straddles the continents of North America and Eurasia. Morphological variation in this species has been poorly studied, particularly regarding differences between Nearctic and adjacent Palearctic populations (subspecies lathami and cinctus, respectively). To evaluate geographic patterns of morphological variation between lathami and cinctus, we measured 24 variables related to coloration and structure on 24 museum specimens. We found statistically significant average differences between specimens of lathami and cinctus in three plumage areas and three measures of bill size. Genetic analysis is needed to further quantify divergence in lathami.
Lucas H Decicco
added 5 research items
On 4 june 2005, while birding along the chilkat River near Haines, alaska, we observed a pair of cassin's vireos (Vireo cassinii) attending an active nest. The birds were also observed later the same day by Thede Tobish, jr., alan DeMartini, and Gary H. Rosenberg. We first heard an adult singing at 06:00 hrs, and at approximately 06:30 hrs followed it to the nest, where it fed four young. We photographed the pair, nest, young (Figure 1), and surrounding habitat during the period of observation. The pair was actively feeding the young and disposing of fecal sacs during our visit. Both adults delivered food to the young, but they were seldom seen for more than a few seconds at the nest. When we approached the nest, both birds became agitated and gave alarm calls. after a short period of discontinuous singing in the early morning, the pair continued to vocalize solely with alarm calls until we departed after 0.5 hour of observation. Figure 1. Female (upper) and male (lower) cassin's vireos attending nest near Haines alaska, 4 june 2005. Photo by Lucas DeCicco
The largely palearctic Red-necked Stint has been documented breeding in the Nearctic Region only in Alaska, from which 12 records were published from 1909 to 1975. In summer 2012 we found a family of Red-necked Stints in the Kigluaik Mountains of the Seward Peninsula, in tundra of the dwarf shrub mat type with 250% cover of bare rock. The photographs obtained are the first published of the Red-necked Stint breeding in Alaska.