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Black oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) population size, use of marine reserve complexes, and spatial distribution in Oregon

February 19, 2020

The Black Oystercatcher is a large shorebird found along the west coast of North America. Because of their small global population size, low reproductive rate, and dependence on rocky intertidal habitats, they are considered a “species of high conservation concern” and may act as an indicator of intertidal ecosystem health. In 2015, the Audubon Society of Portland initiated a 3-year shore-based population survey in Oregon building upon long-term monitoring previously conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and others. The objectives were to 1) Estimate the current minimum population of breeding Black Oystercatchers in Oregon and to compare that to previous estimates to better understand the population trend; 2) Document oystercatcher abundance adjacent to the Oregon’s system of Marine Reserves and Marine Protected Areas; and 3) Describe spatial distribution of breeding oystercatchers along the coast. We targeted all rocky shoreline habitats along Oregon’s coastline to perform abundance surveys each spring. A total of 75 survey routes were sampled using a standardized protocol. Trained volunteer community scientists conducted the majority of the surveys. We used N-mixture statistical models to estimate oystercatcher population size and probability of detection. Population estimates from the best fitting models were consistent, with estimates ranging from 506 oystercatchers in 2016 (95% credible interval, 463-560) to 629 (548-743) in 2015. These estimates indicated a small but stable population. Probability of detection remained consistent across years (ranging from 0.51 to 0.53). The effect of geographic region corresponded with greater bird density in the southern region of Oregon. Oystercatcher abundance adjacent to MR/MPAs accounted for between 12.4-18.3% of the total population estimate which was lower than expected (~25%). We recommend that subsequent conservation efforts directed on Black Oystercatchers in Oregon balance limiting human disturbance, particularly on the north and central coasts, with ensuring protection of core habitats on the south coast where much of the population resides.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Black oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) population size, use of marine reserve complexes, and spatial distribution in Oregon
DOI 10.1898/1051-1733-101.1.14
Authors Joe Liebezeit, Amelia O'Connor, James E. Lyons, Courtney Shannon, Shawn Stephensen, Elise Elliott-Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Northwestern Naturalist
Index ID 70208767
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center