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Seabird Projects

Haida Gwaii, west coast BC, Nfld, NS, NB

Globally, seabirds are among the most rapidly declining species groups.  At breeding colonies, seabirds are extremely sensitive to introduced predators (mice, rats, cats, racoons) and habitat destruction.  At sea, seabirds are vulnerable to accidental entanglement in fisheries gear (bycatch), chronic/catastrophic oiling, marine plastics and other toxins, exclusion from feeding sites and reduced prey availability, and to climate-driven changes to the marine food web.  Amidst these myriad threats, we study seabird populations to help identify which threats are having the most impact on seabirds, to help direct conservation efforts.

Birds Canada staff on Canada’s east and west coasts work closely with partners to help improve the conservation status of several seabird species:

(1) Predator Detection and Eradication:

On Haida Gwaii and the Central Coast of British Columbia, Birds Canada coordinates predator detection and eradication efforts, working with local First Nations partners to detect and remove rats and raccoons from colonies where vulnerable, burrow-nesting seabirds (including Ancient Murrelet and Cassin’s Auklet) raise their chicks . These efforts directly prevent seabirds and their chicks from being eaten by predators. Birds Canada is also conducting pre-eradication introduced predator survey work in the newly declared Scott Islands Marine National Wildlife Area, in partnership with Indigenous groups, and Provincial and Federal Governments.

(2) Marine Conservation Planning:

In Atlantic Canada, Birds Canada coordinated a GIS-based mapping study that overlaid the marine distribution of 14 seabird species with marine-based risks (fishing, shipping traffic, offshore oil and gas production, light pollution) to highlight marine risk hotspots where seabirds were most vulnerable. The resulting maps and database can help inform and guide marine conservation and management plans in coastal Atlantic Canada.

(3) Declines of Leach’s Storm Petrel:

In Atlantic Canada, Birds Canada is coordinating multi-partner research at six key petrel colonies across New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland. We aim to study (i) predators at colonies, (ii) local and year-round migration, (iii) adult survival, (iv) chick growth and fledging rates, (v) mercury, (vi) diets, and (vii) microplastics. The results will help decipher what threats may be responsible for the 40-50% decline in Leach’s Storm Petrel populations in recent decades.

To find out more, contact:

Dr. Laura McFarlane Tranquilla
Director, Atlantic Region

Dr. David Bradley
Director, Pacific Region