About Puget Sound Seabird Survey

Bald Eagle & Osprey / Robert_Wagner / Great Backyard Bird Count

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Project Objectives:

  1. The goal of the Puget Sound Seabird Survey (PSSS) is to develop long-term baseline shore-based density estimates for seabirds in central and south Puget Sound.  The previous continuous study (PSAMP) estimated group sizes and species composition of groups from aerial and ship-based surveys.
  2. Given the initial success of the surveys, Seattle Audubon is developing partnerships with other regional Audubon chapters, local NGOs, and local, state, and federal government agencies to create a framework for long-term seabird monitoring in Puget Sound.

Project History:

Seabird research in Puget Sound has historically been a collaborative process between state and federal agencies, NGOs, and university scientists. In 1978-79, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) jointly funded the first seabird survey in Puget Sound, known as the Marine Ecosystems Analysis (MESA). Results from the MESA study have provided an initial baseline to estimate population trends and projections in Puget Sound. Beginning in the early 1990s, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) made seabirds a conservation priority and began a series of continuous annual surveys to estimate temporal trends in seabird abundance. These data have been incorporated into the Puget Sound Assessment and Monitoring Program (PSAMP), and nearly all species have been shown to decline since 1978-79. One potential problem with comparing WDFW surveys with the MESA density estimates is that the sampling protocol has been slightly different. To address this issue, a Washington State Sea Grant funded survey was established in 2004-05 to replicate the initial MESA project (J. Bower, Western Washington University). Preliminary results from the WWU survey agree with the PSAMP trends to some degree, but also show different trends for some species, including pigeon guillemots (declined 55% in the PSAMP survey, increased 60% in the WWU survey). These discrepancies indicate the need for additional research and continuous shore-based surveys of Puget Sound seabirds.