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Año Nuevo Island

Seabird Conservation, Habitat Restoration, and Ocean Indicators

img_1088Oikonos works with a team of ecologists, habitat restoration experts, artists, designers and land managers to restore degraded habitat for nesting seabirds on Año Nuevo Island, California. In addition, in 2018 Oikonos is leading the 26th consecutive year of seabird ecology studies at Año Nuevo State Park (initiated by the Park and Point Blue Conservation Science in 1993).

News and Updates

Check out our new Año Nuevo Seabirds brochure made by intern Danielle Devencenzi (PDF, 17.5MB)

Thank you Discretion Brewery for hosting a Fundraiser on March 19th – more info

KALW Radio piece on Año Nuevo Island seabird project

Año Nuevo Seabird Conservation and Habitat Restoration Report 2017 (PDF, 1MB)

2017 Highlights:

  • 397 Rhinoceros Auklets bred on the island, shattering the previous high count of 330 birds in 2015.
  • Clay nest modules provided nesting habitat for 56 breeders from 3 different burrowing species.
  •  For all 6 species of monitored seabirds on the island, parents had near average or higher success in rearing chicks in 2017
  • Juvenile rockfish and anchovy dominated the diet of Rhinoceros Auklet chicks and breeding success was the highest on record for this species
Cassin’s Auklet newly hatched chick from a clay module

Cassin’s Auklet chick newly hatched from a clay module.



Seabird Population and Reproduction Studies: Our 26 year time-series on 8 breeding seabird species has provided many insights into seabird ecology and ecosystem based management including:

  • The crucial importance of Northern Anchovy (red in graph below) to breeding Rhinoceros Auklets
  • Insights into the impact of ecosystem-based fisheries management and colony protection on Brandt’s Cormorant populations (manuscript in review)
  • Devastating impacts of raven predation on Pelagic Cormorants reproduction (Carle et al. 2017)
  • Long-term nesting population decline of Western Gulls since 2005
  • Sex and season-specific diet patterns in Rhinoceros Auklets (Carle et al. 2016)


beck et al ANI Report diet graph 2015Indicators of Ocean Conditions: Seabird diet studies are widely used to assess and predict ocean health. We annually collect diet samples from Rhinoceros Auklets, Brandt’s Cormorants, and Pelagic Cormorants. This data is currently being used to inform ecosystem based management of California Current fisheries.

Protection: To protect the seabird nesting area from destructive trampling by California sea lions, we designed an innovative Habitat Ridge exclosure structure.

Ceramic Nest Modules: To provide low-maintenance nesting sites for burrowing seabirds that are safe from erosion and trampling, we designed and produced 90 clay nest modules. Since 2010, clay modules have been used by hundreds of pairs Rhinoceros Auklet, Cassin’s Auklet, and Pigeon Guillemots to raise their young. More info.

Restoration: To stabilize the burrowing habitat for Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets and improve nesting success, we installed over 15,000 native coastal grasses and shrubs. Since then, increased native plant cover (12-79% cover in restoration plots) has resulted in a reduction in burrow collapse from erosion (11% damaged in 2016, compared to 40-60% annually before restoration).

Seabird Population and Reproduction Studies: We annually document the breeding population size and reproductive success of 8 breeding seabird species. The Rhinoceros Auklet population increased by 26% and the Cassin’s Auklet population tripled since restoration began in 2010.

Publications & Papers

Peer-reviewed publications:

Prey switching and consumption by seabirds in the central California Current upwelling ecosystem: Implications for forage fish management

Warzybok, P., Santora, J.A., Ainley, D.G., Bradley, R.W., Field, J.C., Capitolo, P.J., Carle, R.D., Elliot, M., Beck, J.N., McChesney, G.J., Hester, M.M., Jahncke, J. 2018. Journal of Marine Systems, 185: 25–39. doi:10.1016/j.jmarsys.2018.04.009

Ecosystem-based management affecting Brandt’s Cormorant resources and populations in the central California Current region. 2018.

Ainely, D.G., Santora, J.A., Capitolo, P.J., Field, J.C., Beck, J.N., Carle, R.D., Donnelly-Greenan, E., McChesney, G.J., Elliot, M., Bradley, R.W., Lindquist, K., nelson, P., Roletto. J., Warzybok, P., Hester, M., Jahncke, J. 2018. Biological Conservation, 217: 407-418.

Egg depredation by Common Ravens Corvus corax negatively affects Pelagic Cormorant Phalacrocorax pelagicus reproduction in central California. 2017.

Carle, R.D., Calleri, D.M., Beck, J.N., Halbert, P. & Hester, M.M. 2017. Marine Ornithology 45: 149-157.

Temporal and Sex-Specific Variability in Rhinoceros Auklet Diet in the Central California Current System. 2015.

Carle R., Beck J., Calleri D., and Hester M. 2015. Journal of Marine Systems 146:99-108.

Selected Reports – Long-term Study Results:

Año Nuevo State Park Seabird Conservation and Habitat Restoration Report 2017

J. Beck, E. Coletta, R. Carle, and M. Hester. 2017. Año Nuevo State Park Seabird Conservation and Habitat Restoration: 2017. Unpublished Report to California Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Año Nuevo State Park.


Año Nuevo Island is off-limits to humans — but not these scientists

KALW Radio piece on Año Nuevo Island research and oil spill mitigation

Audubon Network Speaking Up For Anchovy

California Audubon blog, January 2016, featuring Año Nuevo auklets and their prey

A Success Story: Preserving Breeding Habitat for Auklets on Año Nuevo Island

Coastside State Parks Association Newsletter, Spring 2014

Extremely Wild and Very Smelly, Año Nuevo Island Restoration

Santa Cruz Sentinel, July 2013

Año Nuevo Island: Where the Wild Things Are

San Francisco Chronicle, 17 July, 2009.

Contact Project Staff

Jessie Beck, Ryan Carle, Emily Coletta, and Michelle Hester

Partners & Supporters


Thank you to the over 300 volunteers who have given their expertise and muscles to these efforts. Thank you to the individual donors for caring about the seabirds of Año Nuevo.

Key partners Go Native, California College of the Arts Ceramics, MoreLab, Año Nuevo State Park, Año Nuevo UC Natural Reserve.

Direct funding provided by USCG National Pollution Fund Center, managed by the Luckenbach and Command Oil Spill Trustee Councils; Sand Hill Foundation, Patagonia Santa Cruz, Creative Work Fund, a program of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and The James Irvine Foundation; Peninsula Open Space Trust; Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation; Michael Lee Environmental Foundation; Bently Foundation; USGS – Western Ecological Research Center; Coastal Conservancy, and many individual donors — thank you to all!.

More ~ Photos, Videos, Flipbooks

Photo Galleries – Volunteers and Highlights
Videos – Art Students Design Seabird Homes and Restoring an Island
Flipbook – Design Ecology: Creating habitat for Seabirds


Program Needs

In addition to monetary donations, donations of the following equipment and gear would be extremely helpful to the project. Please contact Project Manager Ryan Carle if you are interested in making a donation.

  • 2-stroke or 4-stroke outboard motors at least 15hp in good running condition
  • used or new wetsuits of any adult size in good condition
  • adult-sized lifejackets in good condition
  • drybags of any size in good condition
  • watertight pelican cases
  • clean (no dirt or seeds) wooden construction stakes
  • 4×4 or 2×4 redwood lumber (preferably reclaimed and clean of seeds and dirt)
  • headlamps with strong red light option
  • 12 to 14-foot Zodiac-style inflatable boats in good condition
  • stainless-steel carabiners
  • heavy duty garbage bags and freezer-grade zip-lock bags (1 quart & 1 gallon)