Nearshore counts of birds on the water and time-lapse photography were used to monitor seasonal activity patterns and interannual variation in numbers of Horned Puffins (Fratercula corniculata) and Parakeet Auklets (Aethia psittacula) at the Semidi Islands, Alaska. The best period for over-water counts was mid egg-laying through hatching in auklets and late prelaying through early hatching in puffins. Daily counts (07.00 h-09.30 h) varied widely, with peak numbers and days with few or no birds present occurring throughout the census period. Variation among annual means in four years amounted to 26% and 72% of total count variation in puffins and auklets, respectively. Time-lapse photography of nesting habitat in early incubation revealed a morning (08.00 h-12.00 h) peak in the number of puffins loitering on study plots. Birds recorded in time-lapse images never comprised more than a third of the estimated breeding population on a plot. Components of variance in the time-lapse study were 29% within hours, 9% among hours (08.00 h-12.00 h), and 62% among days (8-29 June). Variability of overwater and land-based counts is reduced by standardizing the time of day when counts are made, but weather conditions had little influence on either type of count. High international variation of population indices implies low power to detect numerical trends in crevice-nesting auklets and puffins.
Additional publication details
Activity patterns and monitoring numbers of Horned Puffins and Parakeet Auklets