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Monitoring Rhinoceros Auklets on Protection Island

Auklets are fascinating research subjects!

The nesting colony of Rhinoceros Auklets on Washington State’s Protection Island is among the largest in the world. The birds’ breeding success reflects the health of surrounding marine waters. Scientists are monitoring the type, number, and food value of the fish the adults provide. And to find out how the chicks are faring, they’re snaking fiber-optic infrared cameras mounted on long cables into the burrows!

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Monitoring Rhinoceros Auklets on Protection Island

Written by Todd Peterson

This is BirdNote.

[Calls of a Rhinoceros Auklet adult and chick]

What are those curious sounds? 

[Calls of a Rhinoceros Auklet adult and chick]

They’re the calls of a small gray seabird – a Rhinoceros Auklet with its chick – deep in a burrow on Washington State’s Protection Island. They were recorded during the small hours of a summer night. That’s because adult Rhinoceros Auklets spend their days at sea. [Wing sounds adult] They return at night to feed their chicks small fish carried crosswise in their beaks. 

The young birds spend up to eight weeks in burrows up to 12 feet long that their parents excavate with their beaks and feet. The island “harbors one of the largest nesting colonies of Rhinoceros Auklets in the world” 1/ numbering about 72,000 adult birds. 2/ 

[Sound of Rhinoceros colony] 

But the birds face significant challenges. Black-tailed deer are overgrazing the island, trampling the birds’ burrows and subjecting them to erosion. And a growing number of Bald Eagles are making meals of the auklets. 3/

The birds’ breeding success reflects the health of surrounding marine waters. [Calls of Glaucous-winged Gulls] Scientists are monitoring the type, number, and food value of the fish the adults provide. 

And to find out how the chicks are faring, they’re snaking fiber-optic infrared cameras mounted on long cables into the burrows. [Rhinoceros Auklet adult and chick]

Like to see what the cameras see? Have a look, on our website, BirdNote.org. 

###

Sounds of Rhinoceros Auklets on Protection Island were recorded by Jeff Rice for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound with the assistance of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

Special thanks to Scott Pearson, Peter Hodum, and Jeff Rice for review of the script or assistance with the show.

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler 

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org  June 2014  Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#  RHAU-02-2014-06-26 RHAU-02       

1/. Encyclopedia of Puget Sound, Puget Sound Institute, University of Washington

2/. Emails 4/14/14 from Scott Pearson, Ph.D. Senior Research Scientist, Wildlife Science Division, Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife

3/. See PDF Hipfner et al EB

Related field notes:

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