Technology to detect and record bird calls could be more cost-effective than surveys by field biologists for monitoring marbled murrelet nesting sites
Date: February 25, 2016
University of California - Santa
Marbled murrelets are so secretive that biologists didn't even know where they nested until the 1970s, and monitoring the populations of these endangered seabirds remains a challenge. A new study, however, suggests that autonomous acoustic sensors used to detect and record murrelet calls could offer a viable alternative to surveys conducted by field biologists.
In comparison to the traditional surveys used to find the shy birds, the new technology could enable scientists to conduct broader, more cost-effective searches, according to UC Santa Cruz graduate student Abraham Borker, first author of a paper on the new findings published in Wildlife Society Bulletin.
Marbled murrelets are the odd ducks of seabirds. For most of the year, they sport typical marine bird plumage, dark on top and light on bottom to conceal them from predators above and below. But when breeding season nears, they turn a mottled ashy brown, which blends well with the coastal old-growth redwood forests where they nest. Murrelets sometimes fly up to 50 miles inland to nest, laying a single egg on a bed of moss high in a large tree.