Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wading Birds of Bahía Kino, Sonora, México

Great Blue Heron with cardon cactus nest (Photo Emily Clark)
The Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies is a Prescott College field station in Bahía Kino, a small town in the Mexican state of Sonora, on the Gulf of California.  Each year the Kino Bay Center hosts over 1,000 researchers, students, resident fellows and community visitors from dozens of institutions and community groups from Mexico, the United States and other parts of the world. The Kino Bay Center has been conducting research on the wading bird colonies in the region for many years, along with spearheading the designation of Estero Santa Cruz as a wetland of international importance under the United Nations Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. They have published the results of their surveys from 2009-2013 in Waterbirds 38(4):355-363. 2015 

Diversity, Abundance and Nesting Phenology of the Wading Birds of Bahía Kino, Sonora, México
Full Access
Emily W. Clark, Abram B. Fleishman and Mark F. Riegner
Abstract.--The occurrence and nesting phenology of Ardeidae species and other wading birds were documented from 2009–2013 in the Bahía Kino bioregion of western Sonora, México. Two active colonies were surveyed: in a mangrove (Avicennia germinans; Rhizophora mangle) estuary and on a nearshore desert island. Thirteen species of nesting wading birds were recorded, 11 of which are year-round residents and two occurring only during the breeding season; two additional species were documented only in migration. The most abundant species was the Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), which had a peak of 234 nests in 2012. Of particular conservation interest is the Reddish Egret (E. rufescens), which had a peak of 149 nests in 2012. Potential prey of wading birds in the estuary was also sampled, with special focus on brachyuran crabs, which constitute the main prey items of the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea). The rapid development of the region, and especially the establishment of largescale mariculture operations along Estero Santa Cruz, has the potential to impact local wading bird populations, and thus an understanding of wading bird diversity, abundance and habitat use may prove critical to inform future management and conservation initiatives.
Heron colony on Alcatraz Island, Bahio Kino, Mexico (Photo Emily Clark)
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron with Uca princeps (Photo Abram Fleishman)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Rufous-Throated Dipper

The Rufous-throated Dipper or Argentine dipper (Cinclus schulzi) is an aquatic songbird found in South America, and is part of the dipper family. It is the subject of an article in the current issue of Waterbirds. The Rufous-throated Dipper lives along rapid rocky streams in the Andes in Bolivia and Argentina at 800 m to 2500 m in elevation. The bird breeds in the alder zone at 1500 m to 2500 m in elevation. BirdLife International have classified this species as "Vulnerable". Threats included reservoir construction, hydroelectric dams, and irrigation schemes. The current population is estimated at 3,000 to 4,000 individuals.
     The Rufous-throated Dipper (Cinclus schulzi) is an endemic and threatened bird that inhabits the mountain rivers of southern Yungas of Argentina and Bolivia. This is the rarest and least known species of the genus, in part because of its restricted distribution. The aim of this study was to describe the nests and nest sites of the Rufous-throated Dipper in mountain rivers of northwestern Argentina. Five rivers were surveyed in transects of 3 to 6 km long from 2010 to 2013. The shape, size, substrate and building material of nests and nest and non-nest characteristics were assessed and compared in plots of 2 by 2 m. Plots with nests were compared to non-nesting plots for a number of habitat characteristics. Most nests found (78.57%; n = 28) had a globular shape, were attached to rocky substrates and were built using moss. The height of nests above the water level (P = 0.02), slope (P = 0.03) and watercourse width (P < 0.01) varied among rivers. Plots at nest sites had significantly higher values of some habitat characteristics than non-nesting plots, including emergent rocks (P < 0.01), slope (P < 0.02), greater number of rapids (P < 0.01), number of pools (P < 0.01), water velocity (P < 0.05), and river depth (P < 0.01), but had narrower watercourse width (P < 0.01). Previously, the understanding of the breeding ecology of the Rufous-throated Dipper was based only on anecdotal evidence.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015



Symposium: Offshore wind power and birds.
Chairs: Wing Goodale and Iain Stenhouse

Symposium: Updates on Loon ecology and conservation.
Chair: Jim Paruk

Contributed paper session. Shorebird migration.
Chair: Caz Taylor
Contributed paper session: Conservation.
Chair: Katherine Parsons


Jennifer Arnold and Stephen Oswald, Pennsylvania State University (Berks campus) 

Abstract: Interregional comparisons of Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) ecology and life history: The tools, the data, and implications for conservation and management
Motivated by declining populations in the North American Great Lakes, we have intensively studied breeding colonies of Common Terns in Lake Ontario and across the region since 2008. Discovering unanticipated differences in ecology and life history of species at inland colonies, we also undertook studies of regional population genetics and pioneered an expedition to assess the status and ecology of supposed large inland populations in the lakes of Manitoba. Here we report comparative ecological and demographic studies between Common Terns nesting in inland North America and those from coastal colonies of North America and Europe. We present novel findings for age at first reproduction, population structure, condition-specific survival, breeding success, chick development, habitat selection, and responses to heat stress, disease, predation and human disturbance. In the process, we detail a range of novel and remote field technology for waterbird research that we developed to minimize researcher disturbance and obtain difficult-to-get data. These include automated perches for resighting of banded birds without need for trapping or handling, leg-mounted temperature sensors to quantify thermal stress and behavior at the microhabitat level, and nest-based temperature and heart-rate monitors to elucidate the behavioral and physiological impacts of disturbance. Our results are put in the context of appropriate conservation strategies and how management approaches can and should be tailored to account for site specific differences and intraspecific variability across regions. 

The current version of the Scientific Program for the meeting can be found here: DraftProgram07122015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015



Symposium: Recent advances in biology and management of Double-crested Cormorants.
Chairs: Chip Weseloh, Linda Wires, Susan Elbin

Symposium: Behavior and Conservation. 
Chair: Brian Palestis

Contributed Paper Session. Waterbird breeding and habitat use.
Chair: Lianne Koczur

Bill Montevecchi, Memorial University of Newfoundland 
Abstract: Big Oil, Big Ocean, Big Questions.
Public transparency and environmental information are prerequisite for citizen awareness and understanding and for conservation considerations. Yet, in the world’s oceans, restricted, filtered and distorted information from multi-national hydro-carbon corporations and developmentally- conflicted regulatory regimes preclude adequate assessment of seabird mortality, platform pollution and disturbance. Lack of public environmental information creates Type II Error scenarios in which no information is interpreted as no problem, when in fact there is simply no information, or worse distorted information. In the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, the Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board prevents access to environmental information which the public and independent scientists should be entitled. Examples of these design failures and information distortion will be presented with recommendations for improved seabird monitoring, research and marine conservation. 

Poster session

The current version of the Scientific Program for the meeting can be found here: DraftProgram07122015

Monday, July 13, 2015



Symposium: Biology of the American Oystercatcher.
Chair: T. Simons

Symposium: Aquatic Passerines: The Youngest Waterbirds.
Chair: K. Ruskin

Contributed Paper Session: Waterbird movements.
Chair: P. Jodice
Contributed Paper Session: Demography and foraging.
Chair: David Shealer
Contributed Paper Session: Conservation.
Chair: Scott Demers

Bruno Ens. Sovon Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology 

Abstract: The contribution of long-term studies of Oystercatchers to science and conservation.

The behavioural choices of individuals, like recruitment, risk-taking and feeding of nestlings, determine demographic rates and thus population processes. At the same time, the costs and benefits of particular behavioural choices depend on these population processes. It is from this Darwinian perspective that I have been studying the behavioural ecology and population dynamics of Eurasian Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus for the last 35 years. The Oystercatcher is a very good study species because it is a large bird living in an open habitat where it feeds on relatively large prey that can be monitored with little effort. The birds are easily marked and their high site fidelity allows the social career of individuals to be followed throughout their lives. However, the longevity of the species (it may live over 40 years) means that it requires perseverance to obtain the necessary measurements, i.e. keep the population study running. During winter, individuals compete for food. During summer, individuals compete for high quality territories and high quality mates. We understand much about the social career during the breeding season and the social career during the nonbreeding season, but we know very little about how these two careers are linked.

As I now see it, the aim is to unify three partial descriptions of Oystercatcher society in terms of competition, each accompanied by their own body of theory: Distribution theories describe the access of individual animals to limiting resources in space. Life-history theory describes the access of individual animals to limiting resources in the course of their life, and how these resources are  allocated to survival and reproduction Mating systems theory describes the access of individual animals to partners as a resource limiting reproduction. The queue model, which postulates a trade-off for nonbreeders between settling at an early age in a poor quality territory and at a later age in a high quality territory, links distribution theory to life-history theory. The initial queue model, where it was assumed that there were no major differences between individuals was proven wrong: chicks from high quality territories have a much higher chance to recruit into high quality territories compared to chicks from low quality territories. This silver-spoon effect has a long-term impact on fitness that increases over generations.

A major challenge to our current efforts to further improve the queue model is that the world is changing. The long-term population study on Schiermonnikoog shows that the expected increase in mean winter temperature will halt the current population decline, as does the expected decrease in variability in temperature. However, changing wind patterns have led to an increase in the risk of flooding during the breeding season, which offsets the expected benefit of warmer winters. Our long-term population is not the only one in decline: nearly everywhere in the Netherlands wintering and breeding populations are declining at an alarming rate since the late 1980s. A multitude of causes have been identified. In summer these include agricultural intensification (inland breeding populations), increased flooding during the breeding season (saltmarsh breeding populations) and increased predation (mainland saltmarshes). In winter, when all birds depend on tidal flats, these include: shellfish fishery, erosion of tidal flats (Oosterschelde) and colonization of mussel beds by the introduced Pacific oyster. Our aim is to construct a metapopulation model to assess the relative contribution and cumulative impact of all these factors on the population decline. For this, we rely heavily on citizen science, where we initiated volunteers to set up colour marking programs throughout the Netherlands, and developed a website where volunteer observers could input their observations of colour-marked individuals.

The current version of the Scientific Program for the meeting can be found here: DraftProgram07122015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

WATERBIRDS 38(2) June 2015 Table of Contents

Stable Isotopes Suggest Low Site Fidelity in Bar-headed Geese (Anser indicus) in Mongolia: Implications for Disease Transmission.
Eli S. Bridge, Jeffrey F. Kelly, Xiangming Xiao, Nyambayar Batbayar, Tseveenmyadag
Natsagdorj, Nichola J. Hill, John Y. Takekawa, Lucy A. Hawkes, Charles M. Bishop,
Patrick J. Butler and Scott H. Newman
Spatio-Temporal Patterns in the Depredation of Waterfowl Nests and Simulated Nests in the Prairie Pothole Region.
Jennifer S. Borgo and Michael R. Conover
Foraging Ecology of Three Sympatric Breeding Alcids in a Declining Colony in Southwest Greenland.
Jannie F. Linnebjerg, Anna Reuleaux, Kim N. Mouritsen and Morten Frederiksen
Hematology, Biochemistry and Serum Protein Analyses of Antarctic and non-Antarctic Skuas.
Andrés E. Ibañez, Roberto Najle, Karen Larsen and Diego Montalti
A Telemetry-based Study of Great Egret (Ardea alba) Nest-Attendance Patterns, Food-Provisioning Rates, and Foraging Activity in Kansas.
John N. Brzorad, Alan D. Maccarone and Heather M. Stone
Distribution of Waterbirds in Rice Fields and Their Use of Foraging Habitats.
Hyung-Kyu Nam, Yu-Seong Choi, Seung-Hye Choi and Jeong-Chil Yoo

Status of the Spectacled Guillemot (Cepphus carbo ) in Japan.
Masayuki Senzaki, Makoto Hasebe, Yoshihiro Kataoka, Yoshihiro Fukuda, Bungo Nishizawa and Yutaka Watanuki
Sex Determination of Adult Eurasian Coots (Fulica atra ) by Morphometric Measurements.
Piotr Minias
Patterns of Molt in Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis ) during Autumn and Winter in the Great Lakes Region, Canada.
Andreanne M. Payne, Michael L. Schummer and Scott A. Petrie
Species Identity and Nest Location Predict Agonistic Interactions at a Breeding Colony of Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus ) and Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias).
Katherine E. Wyman and Francesca J. Cuthbert
Factors Affecting Nest Success of Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) Nesting in
Association with Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus) at Loch Leven, Scotland.
Vasilios Liordos and Alan W. Lauder
Torrent Ducks (Merganetta armata) Diving and Feeding in Hot Springs.
Gerardo Cerón
In Memoriam: Alan Roy Johnson (1941-2014).
Arnaud Béchet 

Migratory Bird Treaty Act and its enforcement

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits capturing killing, selling, or otherwise endangering the well-being of migratory birds. It has rescued numerous species, including the snowy egret, which was hunted to the brink of extinction in the late 1800s but now has a U.S. population of more than a million today. Like all laws, this act is imperfect—for example, it contains no explicit exception for socially or economically vital activities that incidentally harm a small number of animals. However, because of smart management of the law and prosecutorial discretion, it has remained on the books for nearly a century with few changes. Undoing a law of such historical pedigree should be discussed and debated at length, but instead the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is at risk of being gutted with very little deliberation. Last week, Representative Jeff Duncan of South Carolina inserted a rider, a type of amendment, into the budget for Commerce, Justice and Science that would prevent federal prosecutors from enforcing the migratory bird law. While it may not pass—riders get inserted and then dropped in a lot of legislation—it could also make it through and render the Migratory Bird Treaty Act a dead letter. The move is the latest in a string of attacks on the act in recent years. In 2012, Representative Duncan proposed reducing fines for all energy producers that kill non-endangered migratory birds. In January, he introduced a bill to exempt all energy companies from prosecution for accidental killing of birds protected under the act.

Suggested text for people to write to their senators about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the attempt by the current congress to block its enforcement.

Dear Senator: Please vote against the appropriations bill for Commerce Justice and Related Agencies unless the rider that blocks enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (Amdt 347) is removed from the bill. The MBTA is one of our most important wildlife protection laws and this rider would allow people to kill wild birds without any penalty whatsoever. Our wild bird populations are already under great pressure and many are in severe decline. Please do not block the USFWS from enforcing this important law that protects our wild bird populations.

This announcement was originally posted on the Waterbird Society's website. View the full announcement.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Variation in the Vocal Behavior of Common Loons

Common Loon photo by D. Poleschook
Mennill, D.  2014.  Variation in the Vocal Behavior of Common Loons (Gavia Immer):  Insights from Landscape-level Recordings.  Waterbirds 37 (Special Publication I): 26-36.

The song of the Common Loon (Gavia Immer) is one of the most evacuative of many areas of North America: spring would not be the same without this amazing song caring over northern lakes.  Using a custom-designed microphone array to collect landscape-scale recordings, Dan Mennill's bioacoustic analyses focused on understanding how their vocal output varied with time of day, time of year, and in response to variation in weather.  Common Loons showed significant diel variation in vocal output, producing more wail, yodel, and tremolo calls at night than during the day; the wail, yodel, and tremolo calls transmit significantly farther at night than during the day. These results provide quantitative details of Common Loon vocal signaling strategies, revealing that this species calls when abiotic conditions are ideal for long-range signaling. 

This article can be viewed at:

Friday, January 16, 2015

The 39th Annual Waterbird Society Meeting 11-15 Aug 2015


Call for Symposia and notice of Waterbird Society Meeting, Bar Harbor, ME, 11-15 Aug 2015. This is an invitation to anyone who would like to propose a Symposium for the 39th annual Waterbird Society meeting. The symposium can be for a full (approximately 14 presentations) or half day (7 presentations). Currently, we have two full-day symposia scheduled on American Oystercatcher Biology and on Double-crested Cormorant Biology and Management and one half-day symposium on Behaviour and Conservation. The meeting is being held in conjunction with the American Oystercatcher Working Group, the Wilson Plover Working Group and the Northwestern Atlantic Marine Bird Cooperative. Meeting information including details on the venue, field trips, accommodations and special events are now posted on the Waterbird Society web site. Registration information is also on the meeting web site. 
Please contact ERICA NOL or JOHN ANDERSON by 31 Jan 2015 if you have suggestions for further symposia topics. Abstract submission for contributed papers and posters will be available shortly on the meeting web site..

Monday, January 5, 2015

Migration: Idiosyncratic Migrations of Black Terns

Black Tern by Bob Gress

Idiosyncratic Migrations of Black Terns (Chlidonias niger): Diversity in Routes and Stopovers.  Jan van der Winden, Ruben C. Fijn, Peter W. van Horssen, Debby Gerritsen-Davidse and Theunis Piersma. 37(2):162-174. 2014

By 2013, six of 27 Black Terns (Chlidonias niger) from four Dutch colonies that had received light level geolocators in 2010–2011 had been recaptured. All six recovered individuals migrated to West Africa, but whereas one individual flew there nonstop, the others made stops of varying length en route. These included flights of 2,000–6,000 km between major stopovers, achieving travel speeds over 1,000 km/day.  This paper showed that Black Terns are long-distance migrants with substantial individual variation in migration patterns, including the use of staging sites, stopover times and travel distances. The variation in itineraries may imply that the distribution of the marine resources they rely on are relatively unpredictable. It remains to be seen whether the variability seen here reflects differences in otherwise fixed individual strategies or whether Black Terns are truly highly flexible.

The Importance of Survey Timing on Shorebird Density Estimates at East Bay, Nunavut, Canada

The Importance of Survey Timing on Shorebird Density Estimates at East Bay, Nunavut, Canada.  Melanie Dickie, Paul A. Smith and H. Grant Gilchrist.  Waterbirds 37(4): 394-401.  Waterbirds is an International journal, publishing new information on shorebirds and promoting new data on waterbirds from around the world.  In the December 2104 issue, this study examined the timing of breeding on counts of five shorebird species during transect surveys at East Bay, Nunavut, Canada, from 2000 to 2010. The species were: Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola), Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus), Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres), White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis) and Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius). Transect counts varied widely among species and years, and transect counts were most strongly predicted by the density of nests found during more intensive surveys. However, after accounting for this variation, survey counts were influenced substantially by survey timing. Surveys carried out shortly after the median date of nest initiation (∼2 days after) corresponded most closely to the densities of found nests, and if surveys were not within several days of the median date, the discrepancy between the two estimates was large. Although neither nest densities nor transect surveys are believed to be a perfect indication of local population status, these results suggest that the nearly inevitable variation in survey timing could introduce substantial bias into density estimates.Full Access