Good News for Many Important Puget Sound Seabirds

Written by on February 2, 2015 in Marine Life, Other Marine Life

An analysis of seven years of bird sightings recorded by volunteer birdwatchers from the Seattle Audubon Society reveal that many species that had been in decline in the Puget Sound area are now increasing.

Cormorant in Elliott Bay, Seattle. Photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/taylar/6827696175/">Ingrid Taylar</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>.

Cormorant in Elliott Bay, Seattle. Photo credit: Ingrid Taylar via photopin cc.

“This means that all other things being equal, if someone goes out now they’re more likely to see these birds than they would have been seven years ago,” lead author of the research Eric Ward, an ecologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center, explained in a news release.

The study, which is based on Seattle Audubon’s Puget Sound Seabird Survey ( a citizen science project that began in 2007), tracked 18 species at 62 sites around Puget Sound. All the species are known to be indicators of local environmental health because they depend on the Sound for food and habitat.

Volunteer birdwatchers found that 14 of those species increased, including cormorants, loons, and rhinoceros auklets. The citizen science data also documented local hotspots for some species, which may reflect important habitat or prey availability.

“Seeing positive trends here is good news,” said coauthor Scott Pearson, a seabird research scientist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “What we may be seeing is that a number of species may be turning the corner.”

This study also offers a model for how citizen science observations can be used in similar situations, particularly when wildlife agencies are limited by budgets.

“You could never do this with staff people,” explained coauthor Toby Ross, Science Manager at Seattle Audubon. “You’d never have the budget to send out this many people so consistently for so many years, but volunteers make it possible.”

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Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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