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Increasing use of artificial nest chambers by seasonally segregated populations of band-rumped storm petrels hydrobates castro at St Helena, South Atlantic

Beard, Annalea, Thomas, Robert ORCID:, Clingham, Elizabeth, Henry, Leeann, Medeiros, Renata, Oppel, Steffen, Small, Alison and Hailer, Frank ORCID: 2023. Increasing use of artificial nest chambers by seasonally segregated populations of band-rumped storm petrels hydrobates castro at St Helena, South Atlantic. Marine Ornithology 51 (1) , pp. 85-96.

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Artificial nest chambers have become a common management tool for monitoring nocturnal burrow-nesting seabirds, although their utility varies among species and locations. The widespread Band-rumped Storm Petrel Hydrobates castro species complex potentially harbours a cryptic species endemic to the South Atlantic. Here we evaluate the installation of artificial nest chambers as a tool for long-term conservation and monitoring of this species, which breeds in two distinct seasons on St Helena. Based on six years of observational data, we analysed factors affecting occupancy, mate and chamber fidelity, and reproductive success to optimise nest chamber installation and to enhance future management. Occupancy rates were high, increasing from 5% after the first season following installation to 85% after five years. Occupancy was positively associated with i) the number of seasons since chamber installation, ii) whether the chamber was occupied in the previous season, and iii) whether the chamber was occupied in the same season in the previous year. Occupancy also varied with chamber location and lid construction material: chambers with wooden lids had 7% lower occupancy and 18% lower breeding success than chambers with other lid types. Lid replacement also negatively affected occupancy. Chamber monitoring revealed that individuals exhibited 93% mate fidelity and 86% chamber fidelity with little effect of previous breeding outcome. From 312 monitored nests, hatching success was 15% higher during the hot season, while fledging success was 28% higher during the cool season, leading to only 3.2% difference in overall productivity between seasons. Fledging success of each seasonal population varied by year. Chick mortality was considerably higher during the hot season (41% compared to 13% during the cool season), possibly reflecting different responses to temperature regime. We conclude that installation of artificial nest chambers represents an effective monitoring tool, and recommendations for the design and management of chambers are discussed.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: Pacific Seabird Group
ISSN: 1018-3337
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 27 February 2023
Date of Acceptance: 22 December 2022
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 14:14

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