Coastal Breeding Bird Monitoring on the Boston Harbor Islands

Carol Trocki
Department of Natural Resource Science
University of Rhode Island
1 Greenhouse Road
Kingston, RI 02881
e-mail author


Delivered at the 2011 Boston Harbor Islands Science Symposium

Gaining insight into the long-term trends of coastal breeding birds provides one measure for assessing the ecological integrity and sustainability of this unique coastal system. A long-term monitoring protocol for coastal breeding birds was developed for the park beginning in 2007. The objectives of this protocol are to:

  1. quantify annual variation in the long-term abundance of high priority coastal breeding bird species (Least Terns, Common Terns and American Oystercatchers).
  2. determine long-term trends in species composition and relative abundance of priority coastal breeding bird species (Double-crested Cormorants, gulls, wading birds, Common Eiders, Spotted Sandpipers, and Willets).
  3. conduct an annual surveillance program within the park to identify future use by threatened or endangered coastal breeding bird species, such as Piping Plover or Roseate Tern. Neither of these species currently nest in the park, but could in the future. Thus, management agencies should be vigilant, as both species are listed on the federal endangered species list.
  4. provide information that can be used to improve our understanding of the relationship between coastal breeding birds, their habitat, and management actions.

A crew of outstanding volunteers have assisted the lead scientist in conducting waterbird surveys in the park each year since 2007. Survey methods continue to be refined over time and the protocol is updated annually. The use of volunteers to implement this program offers an opportunity for the community to be involved in ongoing research efforts on the islands. This presentation covers results from the first four years of protocol implementation.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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