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 2020 Oikonos is leading the 28th consecutive year of seabird ecology studies at Año Nuevo State Park (initiated by the Park and Point Blue Conservation Science in 1993).
498 Rhinoceros Auklets bred on the island in 2019, the highest number on record!
Clay nest modules provided safe homes for 768 breeding seabirds of 3 different burrowing species.
In 2019 Cassin’s Auklets had difficulty finding small oceanic crustaceans and larval fish they need to raise chicks. Although this year there is an abundance of their prey because the birds arrived early and more parents laid eggs.
With the assistance of many volunteers and partners Go Native, we installed 2,300 square meters of natural erosion control material to stabilize the fragile habitat.
More able last season at 2019 Oikonos Año Nuevo Island annual report (PDF, 1MB)
Seabird Population and Reproduction Studies: Our 27 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 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, trampling, and increasing temperatures, 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. More info.
Doris Duke Conservation Intern Sara Sirk created this illustrated story demonstrating the use and importance of artificial nest sites for auklets.
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).
Cassin’s Auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticis) Population Size, Reproduction, and Habitat Management on a Recently Colonized Island in California, USA.
Carle, R., Hester, M., Colletta, E., Beck, J. 2020. Waterbirds 42(4): 366-379.
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:
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
California Audubon blog, January 2016, featuring Año Nuevo auklets and their prey
Coastside State Parks Association Newsletter, Spring 2014
Santa Cruz Sentinel, July 2013
San Francisco Chronicle, 17 July, 2009.
Photos, Videos, Flipbooks
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.
Direct funding provided by
- California Department of Oil Spill Prevention and Response: Environmental Enhancement Fund
- Honda Marine Science Foundation
- Patagonia Santa Cruz Store
- Luckenbach Oil Spill Trustee Council
- Sand Hill Foundation
- National Endowment for the Arts
- Talcott Fund of the New York Community Trust
- And our many individual donors — thank you to all!
- 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)
- stainless-steel carabiners
- heavy duty garbage bags and freezer-grade zip-lock bags (1 quart & 1 gallon)