Least Auklets (Aethia pusilla (Pallas, 1811)) are the most abundant species of seabird in the Bering Sea and offer a relatively efficient means of monitoring secondary productivity in the marine environment. Counting auklets on surface plots is the primary method used to track changes in numbers of these crevice-nesters, but counts can be highly variable and may not be representative of the number of nesting individuals. We compared average maximum counts of Least Auklets on surface plots with density estimates based on mark-resight data at a colony on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, during 2001-2004. Estimates of breeding auklet abundance from mark-resight averaged 8 times greater than those from maximum surface counts. Our results also indicate that average maximum surface counts are poor indicators of breeding auklet abundance and do not vary consistently with auklet nesting density across the breeding colony. Estimates of Least Auklet abundance from mark-resight were sufficiently precise to meet management goals for tracking changes in seabird populations. We recommend establishing multiple permanent banding plots for mark-resight studies on colonies selected for intensive long-term monitoring. Mark-resight is more likely to detect biologically significant changes in size of auklet breeding colonies than traditional surface count techniques. ?? 2006 NRC.
Additional publication details
Monitoring planktivorous seabird populations: Validating surface counts of crevice-nesting auklets using mark-resight techniques