Evaluation of social attraction measures to establish Forster’s tern (Sterna forsteri) nesting colonies for the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, San Francisco Bay, California—2017 Annual Report
Open-File Report 2018-1090
Prepared in cooperation with the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory
- C. Alex Hartman, Joshua T. Ackerman, Mark P. Herzog, Yiwei Wang, and Cheryl Strong
Forster’s terns (Sterna forsteri), historically one of the most numerous colonial-breeding waterbirds in South San Francisco Bay, California, have had recent decreases in the number of nesting colonies and overall breeding population size. The South Bay Salt Pond (SBSP) Restoration Project aims to restore 50–90 percent of former salt evaporation ponds to tidal marsh habitat in South San Francisco Bay. This restoration will remove much of the historical island nesting habitat used by Forster’s terns, American avocets (Recurvirostra americana), and other waterbirds. To address this issue, the SBSP Restoration Project organized the construction of new nesting islands in managed ponds that will not be restored to tidal marsh, thereby providing enduring island nesting habitat for waterbirds. In 2012, 16 new islands were constructed in Pond A16 in the Alviso complex of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, increasing the number of islands in this pond from 4 to 20. However, despite a history of nesting on the four historical islands in Pond A16 before 2012, no Forster’s terns have nested in Pond A16 since the new islands were constructed.
In 2017, we used social attraction measures (decoys and electronic call systems) to attract Forster’s terns to islands within Pond A16 to re-establish nesting colonies. We maintained these systems from March through August 2017. To evaluate the effect of these social attraction measures, we also completed waterbird surveys between April and August, where we recorded the number and location of all Forster’s terns and other waterbirds using Pond A16, and monitored waterbird nests. We compared bird survey and nest monitoring data collected in 2017 to data collected in 2015 and 2016, prior to the implementation of social attraction measures, allowing for direct evaluation of social attraction efforts on Forster’s terns.
To increase the visibility and stakeholder involvement of this project, we engaged in multiple outreach activities, including the development of a project web site (https://apps.usgs.gov/shorebirds/) and educational video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IaZD0YlAvM&feature=youtu.be); publication of a popular article (http://www.sfestuary.org/estuary-news-caspian-push-and-pull/); and public presentations to relay findings to managers, stakeholders, and the general public.
The relative number of Forster’s terns using Pond A16, after adjusting for the overall South San Francisco Bay breeding population each year, was higher during the nesting period in 2017 (after social attraction was used) than in 2015 and 2016 (before social attraction was used). Furthermore, in 2017, more Forster’s terns were observed in the areas of Pond A16 where decoys and call systems were deployed during the pre-nesting and nesting periods. Although no Forster’s tern nests were recorded in Pond A16 before (2015, 2016) or after (2017) implementation of social attraction measures, bird survey results indicate that Forster’s terns were attracted to areas within Pond A16 where decoys and call systems were deployed, suggesting that terns may have been prospecting for future breeding sites. As social attraction efforts often benefit from multiple years of decoy and call system deployment, these first-year results suggest that continued implementation of social attraction measures could help to re-establish Forster’s tern breeding colonies in Pond A16 and other areas of South San Francisco Bay.
Hartman, C.A., Ackerman, J.T., Herzog, M.P., Wang, Y., and Strong, C., 2018, Evaluation of social attraction measures to establish Forster’s tern (Sterna forsteri) nesting colonies for the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, San Francisco Bay, California—2017 annual report: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018–1090, 25 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20181090.
ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)
Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Results and Discussion
- References Cited
Additional publication details
- Publication type:
- Publication Subtype:
- USGS Numbered Series
- Evaluation of social attraction measures to establish Forster’s tern (Sterna forsteri) nesting colonies for the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, San Francisco Bay, California—2017 Annual Report
- Series title:
- Open-File Report
- Series number:
- Year Published:
- U.S. Geological Survey
- Publisher location:
- Reston, VA
- Contributing office(s):
- Western Ecological Research Center
- iv, 25 p.
- United States
- Other Geospatial:
- Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
- Online Only (Y/N):