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Simple solutions can reduce human-caused impacts on seabirds.

How to Be Seabird Aware

Sarah Warnock and Sue Abbott


A displaying Brandt's Cormorant graces the new brochure. Photo © Peter LaTourrette.

As California's human population increases, interactions between people and wildlife are also on the rise--often to the detriment of wildlife. Working with authors of the new California Current Marine Bird Conservation Plan (page 4), PRBO's Education and Outreach Program is developing innovative ways to bring the Plan's important conservation messages to the public.

In our Seabird Aware Project,* we are creating a brochure that identifies both the problems of disturbance to seabirds and simple solutions that can reduce human-caused impacts.

Colonies of breeding seabirds, such as the Common Murre, are particularly vulnerable to human disturbance. At sea most of their lives, murres come ashore to breed in great, cacophonous colonies that draw the attention of curious boaters. Perched shoulder-to-shoulder on narrow cliff ledges, murres rarely leave eggs and chicks unattended. Their greatest natural enemies, the gulls, are quick to respond to events caused by the close approach of planes or boats. When hundreds or thousands of adult murres flush in alarm, their colonies are left unguarded for the eager gulls to raid. Widespread egg or chick loss, and even permanent desertion of the colony, can result from a single incidence of disturbance.

Pigeon Guillemot. Photo © Jeff Foott.

The Seabird Aware brochure aims to encourage kayakers, pilots, fishermen, and others to respect seabirds' sensitive nature. It features beautiful color images by wildlife photographers Jeff Foott and Peter LaTourrette and former Farallon Island biologist Bob Boekelheide, and provides information on seabird life history and the dangers of too-close contact.

As birds of the open ocean, murres and other seabirds can alert us to serious problems threatening fisheries and the overall health of ocean ecosystems. Together we can ensure that these sentinel seabirds in their nesting colonies will continue to be part of California's coastal wildlife for generations to come.

To learn more about seabirds in the California Current, their life histories, and how you can help protect them, please visit www.prbo.org/seabirdaware.