Abstract: The post-breeding period is an important time in the avian life cycle. During this time birds prepare for migration by focusing their attentions on foraging. It is an especially critical time for young, of some species, such as terns, that remain dependent on adults for weeks after fledging. For Roseate (Sterna dougallii) and Common Terns (S. hirundo), this time period has been little studied. Further confounding this gap in research is the conservation status of these species. The Roseate Tern is state (MA) and federally listed as an endangered species and the Common Tern is state (MA) listed as a species of special concern. In the northeast, Massachusetts is an important breeding area for terns, particularly for the endangered Roseate Tern. Three islands in Buzzards Bay support nearly half of the northeast breeding population. This is also an important area in the post-breeding period. Several areas throughout Cape Cod and the Islands are known to supply critical staging habitat to flocks of terns, with some sites supporting the majority of the entire northeast breeding population of Roseate Terns. This concentration of species and poor understanding of use of post-breeding staging sites raises conservation concern. For ten weeks I will study terns at known staging sites, as well as identify new sites, and will describe: species composition and abundance, temporal (daily, seasonal) use and factors influencing use (weather, tide and disturbances). I will organize a research team to collect coordinated weekly counts at several staging sites to further investigate temporal and spatial variation in site use. Finally, I will work with numerous collaborators to identify (re-sight) Roseate Terns at various sites to learn about dispersal from breeding colonies and movements between staging areas.
Grillo, Elena. Determination of the Impact of Avian and Human Pathogens on the Breeding Success of Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) in Central Virginia. Virginia Commonwealth University.
Abstract: Infectious diseases, in conjunction with global climate change and land-use change, pose major threats to many wildlife species. Studies involving neo-tropical migrant species are particularly important because these species tend to be exposed to a wider variety of pathogens than non-migrant species, and thus they are more likely to be affected by avian and zoonotic diseases. At this time, the population of the Prothonotary warbler (Protonotaria citrea), a neo-tropical migrant, is in decline in Virginia so it is imperative that we understand the extent and effect of debilitating diseases on the reproductive success of this species. Additionally, knowledge of the pathogens carried by this warbler can lead to future research regarding disease transmission between continents via avian migration. The focus of this project is to determine the level of infection of avian and zoonotic pathogens in a population of breeding Prothonotary warblers using molecular techniques. The infectious agents of interest include blood protozoans such as Plasmodium, Haemoproteus, and Leucocytozoon spp. and viruses that cause West Nile Virus and Influenza A. The objectives of this study are: (a) to determine the impact of these pathogens on the breeding success of Prothonotary warblers in central Virginia; and (b) to examine the temporal patterns of prevalence and intensity of infection in Prothonotary warblers throughout the breeding season. Upon conclusion, this project will further the knowledge of parasite impact on fecundity and temporal variation of parasitemia in the Prothonotary warbler, and will allow scientists to gain a better understanding of inter-continental disease transmission.
Kallinger, Kelly. Lifetime Fitness of Tree Swallows Exposed to Aquatic Mercury. College of William and Mary.
Abstract: Mercury is a toxic heavy metal that bioaccumulates through ecosystems, causing severe health problems in wildlife at high levels. While several studies have addressed the problem of mercury exposure in birds by examining parameters such as reproductive success or survivorship, none have measured lifetime fitness, which is arguably one of the most important biological endpoints in assessing the impact of contaminants on wildlife. Therefore, I intend to capture and monitor Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) breeding on a site of known mercury contamination on the South River, VA, USA. This population has been monitored for the past three years since the establishment of a nest box trail in 2005. The longevity of this study will allow me to follow individual females throughout their entire breeding careers to determine whether mercury may truly be affecting breeding bird populations along the South River. Only by integrating single-season reproductive success! and survivorship into a cohesive model will I be able to realistically assess the impact of environmental contaminants on wild populations of birds.
Klapper, Kenneth. An Investigation into the Relationship between the Decline of the Common Nighthawk and Its Nesting Substrate in New Hampshire. Antioch University, New England.
The state-threatened Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) has disappeared from many New Hampshire towns where the species formerly bred; in the few where they do remain, numbers have dramatically declined. Loss of pea stone gravel roofs, their typical nesting substrate, has been implicated as a possible cause of population decline. In 2007, in partnership with New Hampshire Audubon’s “Project Nighthawk” initiative and Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory, I supervised volunteer-based nighthawk population monitoring in Keene and evaluated the potential for restoring nesting habitat by creating seven experimental gravel “nest patches” on rooftops throughout the city. Four individual nighthawks, some engaging in territorial displays, were found during six nights of coordinated monitoring. Although no nighthawk activity was detected at the nest patches in 2007, the late date of their construction may be a factor in the lack of nesting response. In 2008, I will continue to engage in volunteer nighthawk population monitoring, build seven more nest patches, examine the substrate and construction characteristics of roofs in town, and evaluate the historic population trends of nighthawks throughout the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada.
Lohnes, Rebecca. Common Nighthawk Breeding Ecology and Restoration. Cornell University.
Abstract: My research uses a behavioral ecology approach to understand Common Nighthawk declines and to inform nest site restoration efforts in urban and suburban landscapes. The consensus in the monitoring community is that Common Nighthawks and most other nightjars in North America are experiencing large-scale population declines. Relatively little is known about these birds, and nearly all we know about their breeding biology was discovered in the highly altered landscapes of eastern cities where, until recently, they were common. This study seeks to understand the native breeding biology of nighthawks to inform manipulations that, when conducted in urban and suburban habitats, are likely to lead to successful restoration of populations in northeastern cities. In the summer of 2007, I started my research on Konza Prairie Biological Field Station by exhaustively searching for nests in areas of different vegetation cover and substrate type in order to examine nest site selection. In 2008, I will complete a second season of nest finding to more closely examine nest site characteristics, and I will augment this with studies of the breeding behavior of Common Nighthawks to determine the ideal configuration and distribution of artificial nest sites. The objectives of this study will be to elucidate the nighthawk breeding system, to determine male home range sizes, and to establish the desired visual and thermal properties of nest sites. I will synthesize these data to develop preliminary recommendations for corporate- and community-based, biologically-informed restoration efforts.
SAGARIO M. C. Breeding Territoriality of Granivorous Birds in the Central Monte Desert, Argentina. ECODES (Grupo de Investigación en Ecología de Comunidades de Desierto / Desert Community Ecology Research Team), Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Non-random use of space by granivorous birds could have consequences on plant populations, which particularly depend on their seed stage in arid ecosystems, as it may produce space variation in seeds vulnerability to predation. Also, individual selection patterns can affect the species coexistence and therefore modify the structure and organization of bird communities. This work is part of a general project conducted since 1993 and aimed at analyzing the reciprocal effects between seeds and their consumers and the possible consequences of those effects on plant population dynamics in the central Monte desert, Argentina. The main objectives in this work are: (1) to get information about the habitat characteristics that granivorous birds are choosing to establish territories; (2) to assess their intra and interspecific territoriality; and (3) to evaluate if the use of space for territory establishment by these birds may be influenced by (or may influence) decisions made at a different scale. Fieldwork will be carried out in the open mesquite woodland of the Biosphere Reserve of Ñacuñán, MAB-UNESCO (34º03’S-67º54’W), which is located in the central region of the Monte desert, Mendoza province, Argentina. Assessing the spatial use patterns of these granivorous birds is a crucial step towards the general goal of understanding the reciprocal effects between seeds and birds in the Monte Desert. Studying their inter and intraspecific interactions may also contribute to the general knowledge of community organization. This work will also provide information about the ecology and breeding habitat requirements of little known South American birds, some of them Argentinean endemics, and therefore supply fundamental data for their conservation.
Simonetti, Pía. Aves Costeras Marinas: Estudio de los efectos producidos por la contaminación ambiental. University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
(Abstract not currently available).
Suazo, Cristián G. Estado y amenazas para la conservación de aves marinas al sur del frente subantártico: El caso de los Procellariiformes residentes y migrantes australes en el archipiélago de Los Chonos, Patagonia Chilena
Resumen: El sistema archipelágico de Los Chonos (SAC) (44º a 46º S) presenta miles de islas y numerosos fiordos. Algunas expediciones han visitado el SAC en el pasado, pero de muy corta duración y pequeña cobertura espacial. El desconocimiento de la biodiversidad de la región es evidente al no existir sitios de nidificación documentados de Procellariiformes, excepto el reciente descubrimiento de una colonia de Fardela negra Puffinus griseus en el Parque Nacional Isla Guamblín. Se desconocen las interacciones entre Procellariiformes y actividades humanas, siendo un punto crítico, ya que parte del SAC está incluido en la Estrategia Nacional para la Conservación de Biodiversidad del Gobierno de Chile.
Preliminarmente, sabemos que en el SAC transitan el Petrel gigante antártico Macronectes giganteus (NT - IUCN Red List) y Albatros ceja negra Thalassarche melanophrys (EN - IUCN Red List), utilizándolo frecuentemente para descanso y/o alimentación. La identificación de nuevas colonias reproductivas de Procellariiformes en el SAC y las potenciales amenazas para su conservación, recién nos permitirán aportar con antecedentes empíricos para redibujar las estrategias de zonificación territorial actualmente implementadas por las autoridades Chilenas, las que resultan en áreas inadecuadamente destinadas para el desarrollo de actividades productivas, no permitiendo aproximaciones realistas, efectivas y viables hacia la protección de la biodiversidad regional.
Por otro lado, aún continúa siendo desconocida la presencia de algunos Procellariiformes en esta área de endemismo al sur del frente subantártico, recomendándose su urgente exploración y estudio desde hace décadas, pero sin iniciativas para resolver tal vacío de información. Por esta razón, la presente propuesta de exploración e investigación es una oportunidad más que necesaria, efectiva y viable para la conservación de la desconocida biodiversidad del mar patagónico Chileno.
© 2012 Association of Field Ornithologists. Banner photo of Yellow Warblers by Charles Eiseman.