Status assessment and conservation plan for the yellow-billed loon (Gavia adamsii)

Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5258




Because of its restricted range, small population size, specific habitat requirements, and perceived threats to its breeding habitat, the Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii) is a species of conservation concern to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the subject of a petition for listing under the Endangered Species Act. This Status Assessment synthesizes current information on population size, trends, and potential threats to Yellow-billed Loons, and the Conservation Plan identifies research and monitoring activities that would contribute to the conservation of this species. The preparation of this report was requested and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nongame Bird Office, Region 7.The Status Assessment and Conservation Plan for the Yellow-billed Loon can be summarized as follows:? Northern Alaska breeding grounds support an average of 3,369 individuals, including <1,000 nesting pairs in most years. The Yellow-billed Loon ranks as one of the 10 rarest birds that breeds regularly within the main land U.S. and one of only 20 with a North American population <16,000 individuals (Section 6-E).? There is no evidence of a long-term trend in the Yellow-billed Loon population index since 1986 (-0.9% annual change), but interpretation of surveys is complicated by changes in observers and high annual variation, and the 95% confidence interval is large (-3.6% to +1.8% annual change). The low reproductive potential of Yellow-billed Loons suggests that recovery from a substantial decline would not occur rapidly. There are no systematic surveys of Canadian and Russian breeding populations (Section 6-F).? The expansion of the oil industry into prime Yellow-billed Loon breeding habitat is a recent occurrence and we lack the necessary information to accurately predict its effect on the population. Most of northern Alaska?s Yellow-billed Loons (91%) occur on the National Petroleum Reserve?Alaska, virtually all of which is open or proposed to be opened to development and where there is no permanent or legal protection of Yellow-billed Loon habitat (Section 7-A).? Other potential factors affecting the population are also addressed, such as contaminants, subsistence hunting, by catch in subsistence and commercial fisheries on the breeding and wintering grounds, and health of the marine ecosystem off the coast of East Asia where Alaska?s Yellow-billed Loons winter, but data are lacking to reach strong conclusions on most issues.? The conservation goal adopted by the Alaska Loon and Grebe Working Group for the Yellow-billed Loon is to maintain a stable breeding population, of current size and distribution, across the extent of the loon?s breeding range in Alaska. The Conservation Plan, designed to provide information necessary to meet this goal, puts forth seven objectives: 1) Conduct annual population surveys having negligible bias and 80% statistical power to detect a 3.4% annual decline, a decline that would result in a 50% loss of the population within 20 years; 2) Obtain an unbiased and reliable estimate of the size of Alaska?s breeding population; 3) Identify geographic regions and habitats of importance during breeding, staging, and wintering periods; 4) Use demographic models to evaluate risks to the population; 5) Identify potential effects of oil development on the breeding grounds and measures necessary to minimize the effects; 6) Evaluate the magnitude of subsistence harvest and by catch and their potential effects on the population; 7) Develop a continent-wide and range-wide context for Alaska?s population and habitat objectives.

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Status assessment and conservation plan for the yellow-billed loon (Gavia adamsii)
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Scientific Investigations Report
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42 p.