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Año Nuevo Island

Seabird Conservation, Habitat Restoration, and Ocean Indicators


Oikonos 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 2019 Oikonos is leading the 27th consecutive year of seabird ecology studies at Año Nuevo State Park (initiated by the Park and Point Blue Conservation Science in 1993).

News & Updates | Contact | Publications | Media | Partners & Supporters | Program Needs


News and Updates

Curious about clay nests on Año Nuevo Island? 2018 Doris Duke Conservation Intern Sara Sirk created this illustrated story demonstrating the use and importance of artificial nest sites for auklets.

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

Thank you Discretion Brewery for hosting a Fundraiser on March 19th, 2018 – more info

KALW Radio piece on Año Nuevo Island seabird project

2019 Oikonos Año Nuevo Island annual report (PDF, 1MB)


2018 Highlights:

478 Rhinoceros Auklets bred on the island, the highest number on record and an increase of 82 birds since 2017!

Clay nest modules provided safe homes for 74 breeding seabirds of 3 different burrowing species.

With the assistance of the CA State Parks Resource Crew, we installed 500 square meters of erosion control material, spread native seed, and maintained a critical feature of our habitat restoration project: the Habitat Ridge


A Rhinoceros Auklet adult and chick inside a clay nest module. Photo © Tara Johnson Kelly



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 (Ainley et al. 2018)

Estimation of the total amount of fish needed by California seabirds each year vs. how much is harvested by fisheries (Warzybok et al. 2018)

Devastating impacts of raven predation on Pelagic Cormorants reproduction (Carle et al. 2017)

Long-term nesting population decline of Western Gulls since 2005 (see 2018 report)

Sex and season-specific diet patterns in Rhinoceros Auklets (Carle et al. 2016)

Indicators 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. These data are 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 for Rhinoceros Auklets. Since 2010, these modules have been used by hundreds of pairs Rhinoceros Auklets, Cassin’s Auklets, and Pigeon Guillemots to raise their young. We are currently working on designs specific to Cassin’s Auklets in California and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters in Hawai’i 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.


Contact Project Staff

Jessie Beck, Ryan Carle, Rozy Bathrick, and Michelle Hester


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 Report 2018

E. Coletta, J. Beck, R. Carle, and M. Hester. 2018. 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.

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

Media – 360 degree tour of Año Nuevo Island  created by Año Nuevo State Parks


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!


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)