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United States

Farallon and Año Nuevo Islands

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Conservation benefit: Nesting boxes for threatened auklet species

Date Approved: 11.2001

Rhinoceros auklets are seabirds that nest in crevices and burrows. They were once plentiful in California, but most of the breeding population disappeared by the late 1800s. After designation of Northern California’s Farallon Islands as a National Wildlife Refuge in the 1970s, populations began to recover. But mating pairs lay only one egg per year, and recovery is slow. These little birds are still classified as a “species of special concern” by the state of California and a “species of high priority management need” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Farallon Islands, Año Nuevo Island, and Castle Rock in Northern California now provide habitat for approximately 96 percent of the California breeding populations. The total population is no more than 2,000 birds.

One effective strategy to help these birds is to put out nesting boxes for them. Since 1976, the Point Reyes Bird Observatory has deployed over 500 nesting boxes for rhinoceros auklets on Southeast Farallon Island and for Cassin’s auklets on Año Nuevo Island. Both species have readily occupied boxes, and scientists have gained valuable information on population dynamics. Seacology has provided funding for the construction and installation of 65 more nesting boxes.

Project Updates

July 2004

All auklet nesting boxes were constructed in early 2002. In 2003, pairs of rhinoceros auklets breeding in nest boxes on Southeast Farallon Island increased by 43 percent. Pairs of rhinoceros auklets and Cassin’s auklets that were new to the boxes in 2002 have now returned two years in a row to breed on the Farallon Islands and on Año Nuevo Island.

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