Baja Seabirds Benefit from Restoration

Scientists carry nest boxes for installation on islands to encourage seabird nesting.

Scientists carry nest boxes for installation on the Baja islands to encourage seabird nesting.

A new seabird restoration project began this year on the Baja California Pacific Islands. The goal of this project is to restore and monitor populations of nine seabird species on Coronado and Todos Santos Archipelagos, located off northwestern Mexico. These islands are part of the Southern California Bight and are important nesting sites for breeding seabirds. Efforts to remove non-native species such as feral cats and rabbits from these islands have been completed, and the islands are now prime for follow-up restoration actions. This 5-year restoration project is being carried out by both U.S. and Mexican-based organizations, including Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas (GECI), National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the Friends of the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature.

Starting in May 2013, a group of GECI field biologists set up camps on Coronado Sur and Todos Santos Sur. The field teams have been describing and inventorying the island environment, monitoring seabird populations, and carrying out important restoration activities. The field teams are using decoys (wood structures that look like seabirds), on Coronado Sur and Todos Santos Sur for three cormorant species as part of a social attraction program. Biologists have also been installing nest boxes on both islands for nocturnal seabirds such as the Cassin’s Auklet and storm-petrels to encourage their nesting on the island.

Photo of cormorant decoys, wood structures that look like seabirds, used to attract seabirds to nest.

Cormorant decoys or wood structures that look like seabirds, used to attract nesting seabirds. (Credit: Conservacion de Islas)

As part of the environmental education and outreach program, GECI began giving informative talks about seabirds to the Mexican Navy personnel and the lighthouse keepers that inhabit Coronado Sur. The goal of the educational talks is to reduce impacts to nesting seabirds and to create awareness of the importance of the island’s ecosystem to the region. After the breeding season is complete, biologists will analyze the data collected and start planning for Year Two of the project.

 

-Annie Little, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service