Cownose rays, a migratory species, are warm-weather visitors to our area and spend their winters in the subtropical waters off the east coast of Florida.
In May, migrating schools of mature male cownose rays enter the Chesapeake Bay to mate. Females typically enter our waters (after 11 months of gestation!) to give birth in June and July. Because mating occurs soon after birth, our general curator, Jack Cover, suspects the rays spotted in the Harbor over the weekend were likely females being pursued by males.
“Cownose rays are one of many species of fish that are seasonal visitors to the Bay and its tributaries, like the Patapsco River. They remind us that here in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore we are connected to the vast Atlantic,” Cover said. “They have been doing this annual migration ritual long before Baltimore even existed.”
After mating occurs, males leave the bay and spend more time out in the ocean. Females typically remain in the Bay’s shallow waters until mid-October, when water temperatures start to drop. At that time, both male and female groups return to Florida for the winter months. In May, the cycle restarts.
To learn more about the diversity of life in the Inner Harbor, click here!