Changes in breeding population sizes of double-crested Cormorants Phalacrocorax auritus in the Humboldt Bay area, California, 1924–2017

Marine Ornithology: Journal of Seabird Research and Conservation
By: , and 

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Abstract

To better understand recent population growth of the Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus along the Pacific coast of North America, we assessed long-term breeding population trends in the Humboldt Bay area, California, using aerial photographic survey data collected since 1989 as well as available prior data. The earliest documentations of breeding (but without nest counts) are from 1924, 1943, and 1947 on the outer coast near Trinidad, and from 1959 in Humboldt Bay at Old Arcata Wharf. The breeding population increased from 188 nests (376 breeding birds) at one colony in 1961 to ~ 350 nests (700 breeding birds) at four colonies by 1980, and then to peaks of nearly 1,700 nests (3,400 breeding birds) in 1997 and 2004 at eight colonies. Breeding was documented at 13 coastal colonies through 2017. The population increased 100% (9 % per annum) from 1989 to 1997, decreased during the strong 1998 El Niño, and rebounded by 2004. After 
the 2004 peak, three years of available data indicated slight population decline. For the entire 1989–2017 period, the population increased by 91% (2% per annum). Artificial habitats in Humboldt Bay allowed most of the population growth, especially Teal Island, which was colonized in 1993 and became the largest colony in all but one year thereafter. Nest totals on the outer coast decreased, likely because of movements to the Humboldt Bay colonies, which are closer to main foraging areas, and because of competition for nesting space with Common Murres Uria aalge at one colony (False Cape Rocks). Future growth of the population in the Humboldt Bay area appears limited by the availability of disturbance-free breeding habitat. Declines may occur if artificial habitats are lost.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Changes in breeding population sizes of double-crested Cormorants Phalacrocorax auritus in the Humboldt Bay area, California, 1924–2017
Series title Marine Ornithology: Journal of Seabird Research and Conservation
Volume 47
Issue 1
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Pacific Seabird Group
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 12 p.
First page 115
Last page 126
Country United States
State California
County Humboldt County
Other Geospatial Humboldt Bay