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Island Nest Habitats

Julie Thayer

Measuring a Pigeon Guillemot chick. Nest boxes enhance habitat for cavity-nesting seabirds and aid in population studies. PRBO photo.
PRBO has pioneered the use of nest boxes as a restoration and conservation tool for cavity-nesting seabirds. As well as providing added nest sites, boxes may shield breeding seabirds from threats due to habitat erosion, trampling, and exposure to predators. Auklets, guillemots, and murrelets have benefited from PRBO nest boxes on Californian and Mexican islands. Cassin's and Rhinoceros Auklets readily occupy boxes, promoting population growth and enabling PRBO to gain valuable information on population dynamics for conservation strategies (Observer 123, Winter 2001). Initial results with Xantus' Murrelets suggest potential success, but more years of data are necessary. We are currently pursuing funding to expand our nest box program to attract more Cassin's Auklets and Xantus' Murrelets to Santa Barbara Island.

For cavity-nesting seabirds, which are difficult to study, nest boxes have proven valuable for both research and conservation. Future applications are likely, as many more marine bird populations are in need of protection and population enhancement.

Julie Thayer, PRBO Biologist, Marine Ecology Division