| Mar 13, 2023
A Sooty Tern adult near its nest. By K Lowrie
Recently, a member of the Grenadines Seabird Guardians was surveying a remote island and came across a surprising discovery. While the site is known to harbor a regionally important colony of Sooty Terns, numbering up to 40,000 pairs, they were nesting much earlier than usual. This small black and white seabird starts building its nest in April in other parts of this region, but in this case the citizen scientist found them already with chicks in February!
For now, the reason for this shift remains a mystery. Is the population increasing causing the birds to arrive earlier to secure the best nesting spots? Is climate change an influence? Are other species nesting earlier also? Further research is needed to be able to answer these questions.
In 2019, we placed an informational sign at this remote island, informing the public that it is a protected Wildlife Reserve and that activities like hunting are prohibited. Local fishermen tell us the sign is having an effect and many are no longer going there to collect eggs or seabirds. We hope to do a thorough census of the island during the peak breeding period to see if this reported reduced hunting pressure may have caused a population change.
This year our data will be part of the Caribbean Seabird Census 2023, an initiative being conducted in cooperation with partners throughout the region. This innovative effort is the first of its kind and will provide groundbreaking information on regional seabird populations and the threats they face.
We look forward to sharing the results of this and other exciting work in the year ahead. For now, we are thankful for members of the Grenadines Seabird Guardians as they continue to monitor crucial seabird nesting sites and for donors like you who make their work possible.
Thousands of seabirds nesting. By J. Coffey
Wildlife Reserve sign. Photo by Juliana Coffey