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. With the exception of Natividad, Cedros, and San Benito 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 (Baja California surveyed in 1992, Sonora and Sinaloa 1993), allowing for estimates of regional population trends. Population estimates at the 'time of aerial survey' include those nesting, but missed from the air. The population estimate for our coverage area in 2006 was 1,343 nesting pairs, or 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 overall Midriff Islands population remained similar from 1992/1993 (308 pairs) to 2006 (289 pairs), but with notable population changes on the largest two islands (Isla Angel de la Guarda: 45 to 105 pairs [+ 60 pairs]; Isla Tiburon: 164 to 109 pairs [- 55 pairs, or -34%]). The estimated osprey population on the Sonora mainland decreased in a manner similar to adjacent Isla Tiburon, i.e., by 26%, from 214 pairs in 1993 to 158 pairs in 2006. In contrast, the population in 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 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 power-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 power poles poses a risk of electrocution to ospreys as well as causes power outages and fires; modification of power poles to safely accommodate osprey nests has been successful in many countries.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Population Size and Trends for Nesting Ospreys in Northwestern Mexico: Region-wide Surveys, 1977, 1992/1993 and 2006