North American Birds

VOLUME 69 NO3 2016

A Quarterly Journal of Ornithological Record Published by the American Birding Association. The mission of the journal is to provide a complete overview of the changing panorama of our continent’s birdlife.

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N O R T H A M E R I C A N B I R D S 316 Pelagic Birds From Cruise Ships Along The Pacific Coast: Southern California To Southeastern Alaska, 1995-2016 Pelagic Birds From Cruise Ships Along The Pacific Coast: Southern California To Southeastern Alaska, 1995-2016 PAUL E. LEHMAN • 11192 PORTOBELO DRIVE, SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA 92124 • (LEHMAN.PAUL@VERIZON.NET) Introduction The ocean waters off North America's West Coast have been explored by birders for many decades, even before the rise in popularity of chartered one-day pelagic trips beginning in the 1970s (e.g., Beck 1910). Such coverage to the present has been understandably spotty, though several areas off California (e.g., Mon - terey Bay) are much better studied than the waters off northern California, Oregon, and Washington, which in turn have received more extensive coverage than have the waters off British Columbia and Alaska. Moreover, waters farther offshore—at and beyond the edge of the continental shelf—have been vis - ited relatively rarely by one-day charter boats. The distances involved are often too great, the trips would be too long or expensive, or the weather and sea conditions too rough. The distance from the mainland to the shelf edge varies considerably: in many areas, it lies ap - proximately 45-90 km offshore, although it is much farther off most of southern California, and it may be as close as 35 km locally to the north. Fortunately, for interested birders, cruise ships regularly ply these shelf-edge wa - ters, and this paper summarizes data obtained by observers during cruises 1995-2016, not including inshore species such as Royal and Elegant Terns (Thalasseus maximus, T. elegans), not observed beyond 50 km from shore. These offshore waters have been surveyed intermittently since the 1970s by research ves - sels, most of them sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in U.S. waters (e.g., CalCOFI and ORCAWALE/CSCAPE/CalCurCEAS surveys) and by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) in Canadian waters. These research cruises are typically associated with studies of marine birds, marine mammals, rockfish, and other fauna and flora. Many of them run transects from inshore waters on the continental shelf to far offshore in deep water (over 2000 m depth), sometimes well beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) located 200 nautical miles (ca. 375 kilometers) from land. Their results have been summarized only occasionally for the general public (e.g., Pyle 2006, Kenyon et al. 2009), although a 40-year (1973-2012) U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) online seabird database (Drew et al. 2015) recently became available. A number of the researchers onboard such surveys have endeavored to get some records published or otherwise available through such sources as rare bird committee reports (e.g., Hamilton et al. 2007) and online databases, as well as in the seasonal summaries found in the journal North American Birds. Some of the data have been published in marine-bird references such as those for California (Ainley 1976, Briggs et al. 1987, and Stallcup 1990); Wash - Figure 1. A typical West Coast cruise ship hosts between 1500 and 2700 passengers, 1100 crew, and is over 300 meters in length. Some Princess Cruises ships—such as the Golden Princess pictured here docked at Haines, Alaska, August 2015—feature a wrap-around, covered Promenade deck at the bow, affording excellent viewing. Many cruise ships lack the wrap-around deck, however, and the best viewing is from somewhat farther back, near the forward-most life boats. Photograph by Paul E. Lehman.

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