Protecting Seabird Breeding Colonies

Laysan Albatross and chick, Kaena Point, Oahu by George-Wallace, ABC, May 2007

Laysan Albatross and chick, Kaena Point, Oahu by George-Wallace, ABC, May 2007

 

Many seabirds nest in places favored by humans, such as tropical islands, where there are no native predators to prey on them or their chicks. Unfortunately, overlapping with humans is rarely a good plan for wildlife. Waterfront development and recreational areas have replaced thousands of acres of former nesting grounds. Invasive species such as cats, rats, and plants, like Golden Crownbeard have wreaked havoc in seabird nesting grounds. To address this threat in the United States, ABC strongly supports the bipartisan Refuge Ecology Protection, Assistance, and Immediate Response Act, or REPAIR Act (H.R. 767). Seabirds often nest colonially, sometimes because they are sharing tiny islands far out at sea, and because colonies offer better vigilance against predation. But large concentrations of seabirds in one site can also heighten risks. For example, even a small number of cats can decimate a dense seabird colony if the birds are unaccustomed to predators. Furthermore, contamination can rapidly affect large segments of a global population. On Midway Atoll, the centerpiece of the new Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, and historical site of the Battle of Midway, albatross chicks die by the thousands each year because of a single threat: toxic lead paint flaking off of the old buildings.

 

In addition, ABC's seabird program works overseas to end threats on the nesting grounds of threatened birds of the Americas. ABC is currently developing projects to address land-based threats to the Galapagos Petrel and the Pink-footed Shearwater. Both nest in long fragile burrows, which are vulnerable to being crushed by animals or blocked by invasive vegetation like blackberry vines. The pink-footed shearwater also faces a direct threat from humans on its largest nesting site. Locals have been collecting the chicks to eat for years and years, but the harvest is quickly exceeding sustainable levels. A detailed account of the shearwater and threats it faces can be found at www.pinkfootedshearwater.org.