With the DDT ban enacted in the early 1970s, piscivorous bird populations have grown exponentially throughout the tidal reach of the Chesapeake Bay. However, avian population growth is not uniform throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed; several species including Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) experienced significantly greater population growth rates in riverine tidal freshwater and oligohaline regions than in higher salinity portions of the bay. Shifting fish prey resources may provide an explanation for the observed influence of salinity on distribution of piscivorous bird populations. Changes in the fish resources available to avian predators over the past 40 years include changing temporal and spatial distribution of fish prey, as well as shifts in taxonomic and trophic structure of resident and migratory fish assemblages. Historical ecological changes, including long- and short-term changes in the abundance of anadromous clupeid fishes, Atlantic Menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), and the relatively recent introduction and establishment of non-indigenous fishes, within tidal freshwater rivers may be influencing piscivorous bird distributions and abundance, particularly for Bald Eagles and Ospreys, in the Chesapeake Bay. Predator-prey interactions among piscivorous birds and fish prey have received little attention from wildlife managers. Collaborative efforts between fishery scientists and avian ecologists will ultimately lead to better ecosystem management of the Bay’s living resources.
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