Assessing aural and visual cueing as tools for seabird management


  • Associate Editor: Gregory A. Green.


Social attraction, that is, mimicking of active and productive colonies via audio playback of calls of breeding conspecifics and the use of decoys, is commonly used to attract birds to newly established or restored breeding sites. However, little is known about the relative importance of aural versus visual cues for identify nesting areas. Such information is important for design and evaluation of management protocols. We studied the effectiveness of decoys (visual cues) and playbacks (audio cues) as methods for restoring a colony of common terns (Sterna hirundo) at Muskeget Island, Massachusetts, USA. We used a 2-year, crossover experiment with 3 treatment areas: audio and visual, audio only, and visual only. We reversed treatment areas in the second year to control for previous nesting area or substrate preference. In both years, nests were built 9–101 m downwind of loudspeakers. There was no overlap in areas used for nesting between years and no nests were built within decoy plots in either year. Behavioral observations showed that birds responded to decoys only when within range of sound treatments. Conspecific vocalizations appear to be important proximate cues for seabird colony site selection and should be given priority in management protocols using social attraction. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.