Assessing aural and visual cueing as tools for seabird management

Jennifer M. Arnold, Ian C.T. Nisbet, Richard Veit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Social attraction, that is, mimicking of active and productive colonies via audio playback of calls of breeding conspecifics and the use of decoys, is commonly used to attract birds to newly established or restored breeding sites. However, little is known about the relative importance of aural versus visual cues for identify nesting areas. Such information is important for design and evaluation of management protocols. We studied the effectiveness of decoys (visual cues) and playbacks (audio cues) as methods for restoring a colony of common terns (Sterna hirundo) at Muskeget Island, Massachusetts, USA. We used a 2-year, crossover experiment with 3 treatment areas: audio and visual, audio only, and visual only. We reversed treatment areas in the second year to control for previous nesting area or substrate preference. In both years, nests were built 9-101m downwind of loudspeakers. There was no overlap in areas used for nesting between years and no nests were built within decoy plots in either year. Behavioral observations showed that birds responded to decoys only when within range of sound treatments. Conspecific vocalizations appear to be important proximate cues for seabird colony site selection and should be given priority in management protocols using social attraction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)495-500
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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