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Title: Nesting habitat characteristics of Marbled Murrelets occurring in near-shore waters of the Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Author: Wilk, Randall J.; Raphael, Martin G.; Bloxton, Thomas D.;

Date: 2016

Source: Journal of Field Ornithology. 87(2): 162-175

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Marbled Murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus) are listed as threatened in the portion of their range extending from British Columbia to California due to loss of nesting habitat. Recovery of Marbled Murrelet populations requires a better understanding of the characteristics of their nesting habitat in this part of their range. Our objective, therefore, was to describe their nesting habitat in Washington State and Vancouver Island, British Columbia. We captured Marbled Murrelets from 2004 to 2008, fitted them with radio transmitters, and followed them to nests (N=20).We used Cohen’s unbiased d effect size to assess differences between forest plots surrounding nest sites and nearby control sites (N = 18). Nest sites had less canopy cover of the dominant conifers and fewer, but larger, trees than control sites. Nest sites also had greater percentages of trees with platforms >10 cm diameter and >15 cm diameter, and more platforms of these sizes than control sites. The mean diameter at breast height of nest trees was 136.5 cm (range = 84–248 cm) and all but one nest was in dominant or co-dominant tree species. At the landscape scale, we used vegetation maps derived from remotely sensed data and found greater canopy cover, higher density of mature trees, more platforms >10 cm/ha, and more old-growth habitat at nest sites than at random sites. Our findings suggest that, at the site scale, nesting Marbled Murrelets selected the most suitable features of forest structure across expansive potentially suitable habitat. Our landscape-scale analysis showed that habitat features in nesting stands differed from those features in available stands in the murrelet’s range inWashington.We also found that stands with nests were less fragmented than available forest across murrelet range. All nest sites of radio-tagged birds in Washington were in protected areas in mostly undisturbed forest habitat. Conservation of these areas of inland nesting habitat will be critical to the recovery of Marbled Murrelet populations.

Keywords: Brachyramphus marmoratus, Juan de Fuca, old-growth conifer forest, Pacific Northwest, seabird, threatened species, Vancouver Island

Publication Notes:

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Wilk, Randall J.; Raphael, Martin G.; Bloxton, Thomas D. 2016. Nesting habitat characteristics of Marbled Murrelets occurring in near-shore waters of the Olympic Peninsula, Washington. Journal of Field Ornithology. 87(2): 162-175.


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