We used a double-sampling technique (air plus ground survey) in 2006, with partial double coverage, to estimate the present size of the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) nesting population in northwestern Mexico (coastal Baja California, islands in the Gulf of California, and coastal Sonora and Sinaloa). With the exception of Natividad, Cedros, and San Benitos islands along the Pacific coast of Baja California (all three excluded from our coverage in 2006 due to fog), this survey was a repeat of previous surveys conducted by us with the same protocol in 1977 and 1992/1993, allowing for estimates of regional population trends. The minimum population estimate for the area we surveyed in 2006 was 1343 nesting pairs, an 81% increase since 1977, but only a 3% increase since 1992/1993. The population on the Gulf side of Baja California generally remained stable during the three surveys (255, 236, and 252 pairs, respectively). The population of the Midriff Islands (Gulf of California in the vicinity of 29°N latitude) remained similar from 1992/1993 (308 pairs) to 2006 (289 pairs), but with notable population changes on the largest two islands (Guardian Angel: 45 to 105 pairs [133% increase]; Tiburón: 164 to 109 pairs [34% decrease]). The minimum estimated Osprey population on the Sonora mainland decreased in a manner similar to adjacent Isla Tiburón, i.e., by 26%, from 214 pairs in 1993 to 158 pairs in 2006. In contrast, the population in coastal Sinaloa, which had increased by 150% between 1977 and 1993, grew again by 58% between 1993 and 2006, from 180 to 285 pairs. Our survey confirmed previously described patterns of rapid population changes at a local level, coupled with apparent shifts in spatial distribution. The large ground-nesting population that until recently nested on two islands in San Ignacio Lagoon ( Pacific Ocean side, Baja California) was no longer present on the islands in 2006, but an equivalent number of pairs were found to the north and south of the lagoon, nesting in small towns and along adjoining overhead electric lines, with no overall change in population size for that general area (198 pairs in 1992; 199 in 2006). Use of artificial nesting structures was 4.3% in 1977 and 6.2% in 1992/1993, but jumped to 26.4% in 2006. Use of poles that support overhead electric lines poses a risk of electrocution to Ospreys and also causes power outages and fires. We recommend modification of these poles to safely accommodate Osprey nests, as has been successfully accomplished in many countries.
Additional publication details
Region-wide trends of nesting ospreys in northwestern Mexico: a three-decade perspective