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Abundance and productivity of marbled murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus) off central California during the 2019 breeding season

March 12, 2020

Marbled murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus) have been listed as “endangered” by the State of California and “threatened” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1992 in California, Oregon, and Washington. Information regarding marbled murrelet abundance, distribution, population trends, and habitat associations is critical for risk assessment, effective management, evaluation of conservation efficacy, and ultimately, to meet Federal and State recovery efforts for this species. During June–August 2019, the U.S. Geological Survey Western Ecological Research Center continued previously established, long-term (1996–2019), at-sea surveys to estimate abundance and productivity of marbled murrelets in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Conservation Zone 6 (San Francisco Bay to Point Sur in central California). Using conventional distance sampling methods, we estimated marbled murrelet abundance using 125 detections of 216 murrelets (mean group size, 1.72) observed on 8 surveys. The abundance estimated for the entire study area using all surveys in 2019 was 404 birds (95-percent confidence interval, 272–601 birds). Estimated abundance from 2019 is comparable to most prior years of study. In 2019, we estimated reproductive productivity (calculated as the hatch-year [HY] to after-hatch-year [AHY] ratio) using three detections of three HY murrelets observed on six surveys. After date-correcting HY and AHY counts to account for birds expected to be absent from the water while inland at nests, the date-corrected juvenile ratio was 0.025±0.020 standard error. We discuss changes in methodologies during 1996–2019 that could be addressed in re-analysis of this long-term dataset. We updated a synthesized database of all Zone 6 marbled murrelet survey data since 1999 with 2019 data to allow scientists and managers to evaluate established survey methods and assess trends in abundance and productivity estimates.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Abundance and productivity of marbled murrelets (<i>Brachyramphus marmoratus</i>) off central California during the 2019 breeding season
DOI 10.3133/ds1123
Authors Jonathan J. Felis, Emily C. Kelsey, Josh Adams, Cheryl Horton, Laura (Laney) White
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Data Series
Series Number 1123
Index ID ds1123
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center