Population Studies of Marine Birds

Population Studies of Marine Birds

This project is currently Active

The Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus), flightless cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi) and Galapagos waved albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) are endemic to the Galapagos archipelago and Ecuador.

They can now be found on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. The population status of these island species is being monitored on a yearly basis with our partners at the Galapagos National Park Directorate.

Our Research Team

Gustavo Jiménez-Uzcátegui

Principal Investigator

Gustavo is a Wildlife Veterinarian and Researcher at CDRS since 2001. He works in different projects covering various topics of ecology and health of different taxa, principally with birds. In the...

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Other collaborators:

Christian Sevilla (GNPD); Kate P. Huyvaert (CSU); Patricia Parker (UM); R. Lenin Vinueza, Diego Páez, David Egas (USFQ); Hernán Vargas (PF); Michael P. Harris (CEH), Karine Laroucau, Gina Zanella (ANSES); Andreas Nord (LU); Peter L. Pap (BBU).

Project Details

Galapagos albatross (Phoebastria irrorata)
Galapagos albatross (Phoebastria irrorata). Photo by Mick Allen.

This research seeks to understand the populations survival of the Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus), flightless cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi) and Galapagos albatross (Phoebastria irrorata), threatened by climate change, introduced species, pathogens, human interactions and non-infectious diseases, which is important for long-term conservation of these species.

Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus), west of Isabela Island.
Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus), west of Isabela Island. Photo by Juan Manuel García.

The CDF-GNPD team, with the collaboration of Ecuadorian and international universities, are working on ecological monitoring in these marine bird nesting zones on Fernandina, Isabela, Española islands and Mariela islets.

Non-flying cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi), west of Isabela Island.
Non-flying cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi), west of Isabela Island. Photo by Juan Manuel García.

The main goal of this project is to generate information to know the population status (survival) and determine spatial-temporal changes, identify threats (introduced species and pathogens) and know the impact of climatic and oceanographic variability in the reproductive colonies, which will serve to improve the management plan of the species in the long term. In addition, understand their adaptation to the site where they live under various environmental conditions.

The specific objectives of our project are:

  1. Determine the population status through survival rates, mortality by means of mark-recapture methodology.
  2. Determine climatic and oceanographic variability in penguin and cormorant colonies.
  3. Identify major threats (introduced species, pathogens, non-infectious diseases [pollution], human interaction).
  4. Determine space-time changes in the distribution of the three species in the archipelago, and estimate their movements and dispersal.
  5. Determine how the morphological features of penguins' plumage and feathers adapt to their thermal environment and biogeographic range.

Our results

Three population monitoring were made in 2017 and 2018. As a result of this study, the population of penguins had a recovery in relation to 2016, which was evidenced by Gustavo Jiménez and his team. While the population of the flightless cormorant population hit the second population record since this research began in 1977. Albatross population monitoring had the highest capture/recapture rate for individuals since 2010. Findings showed 60% nesting in study quadrants.

Our studies showed that reproduction in natural nests, control of introduced species, understanding the species’ ecology and health were fundamental to comprehend these populations’ dynamics. In Addition, new cases of incidental fishing of penguins with drift nets were found.

Gustavo Jiménez carrying out a marine bird census
Gustavo Jiménez carrying out a marine bird census. Photo by Juan Manuel García.

Now, we are analyzing the presence of heavy metals, by sex, in all three species of marine birds. We will also distinguish Galapagos penguins by the spots on their chests, using photographic identification. We will validate ecological differences among feeding zones of Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants and Galapagos albatrosses, using analysis of stable isotopes.

Keywords: Marine Birds, Spheniscus mendiculus, Phalacrocorax harrisi, Phoebastria irrorata, climate change, introduced species, pathogens, human interactions, non-infectious diseases.

Bibliographical References

  • Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., Vaca, L., Cotín, J., García, C., Costales, A., Sevilla, C. &. D. Páez-Rosas. 2019. Using referential values of δ13C and δ15N to infer the foraging ecology of Galapagos seabirds. Marine Ornithology 47: 5-10.
  • Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., Vinueza, R.L., Urbina, A.S., Egas, D.A., Garcia, C., Cotín, J. & C. Sevilla. 2017. Lead and cadmium levels in Galapagos penguin, Spheniscus mendiculus, Flightless Cormorant Phalacrocorax harrisi and Waved Albatross Phoebastria irrorata. Marine Ornithology 45: 159-163.
  • Crawford, R., Ellenberg, U., Frere, E., Hagen, C., Baird, K., Brewin, P., Crofts, S., Glass, J., Mattern, T., Pompert, J., Ross, K., Kemper, J., Ludynia, K., Sherley, R., Steinfurth, A., Suazo, C., Yorio, P., Tamini, L., Mangel, J., Bugoni, L., Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., Simeone, A., Luna-Jorquera, G., Gandini, P., Woehler, E., Pütz, K., Dann, P., Chiaradia, A. & C. Small. 2017. Tangled and drowned: A global review of penguin bycatch in fisheries. Endangered Species Research. 34: 373-396. doi.org/10.3354/esr00869.
  • Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., Harris, M.P., Sevilla, C. & K.P. Huyvaert. 2016. Longevity records for the waved Albatross Phoebastria irrorata. Marine Ornithology: 40: 133-134.
  • Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., Sarzosa, S.M., Encalada, E., Rodríguez-Hidalgo, R., Celi-Erazo, M., Sevilla, C. & K.P. Huyvaert. 2015. Gastrointestinal Parasites in the Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) of Galápagos. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 51 (3): 784-786. IF: 1.31.
  • Carrera-Játiva, P., Rodríguez-Hidalgo, R., Sevilla, C., & G. Jiménez-Uzcátegui. 2014. Gastrointestinal parasites in the Galápagos Penguin Spheniscus mendiculus and the Flightless Cormorant Phalacrocorax harrisi in the Galápagos Islands. Marine Ornithology 42: 77-80.
  • Awkerman, J.A., Cruz, S., Proaño, C., Huyvaert, K.P., Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., Baquero, A., Wikelski, M. & D.J. Anderson. 2014. Small range and distinct distribution in a satellite breeding colony of the critically endangered waved albatross. Journal of Ornithology 155: 367-378. DOI 10.1007/s10336-013-1013-9. IF: 1.927.
  • Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., Valle, C.A. & F.H. Vargas. 2012. Longevity records of Flightless Cormorant Phalacrocorax harrisi. Marine Ornithology 40: 127-128.
  • Anderson, D.J. Huyvaert, K.P., Awkerman, J.A., Proaño, C.B., Milstead, W.B., Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., Cruz, S. & J.K. Grace. 2008. Population status of the critically endangered waved albatross P. irrorata, 1999 to 2007. Endangered Species Research 5: 185-192.
    Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., Mangel, J., Alfaro-Shigueto, J. & D. J. Anderson. 2006. Fishery bycatch of the waved albatros P. irrorata, a need for implementation of agreements. Galápagos Research 64 (2): 7-9.
  • Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., Boersma, D. & F. Hernán Vargas. 2018. Pingüino de Galápagos. En: FCD & WWF. Atlas de Galápagos: Especies claves: endémicas e introducidas. Puerto Ayora, Ecuador. pp 118-119. https://www.darwinfoundation.org/en/publications/galapagos-atlas
  • Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., & K.P. Huyvaert. 2018. Albatros de Galápagos. En: FCD & WWF. Atlas de Galápagos: Especies claves: endémicas e introducidas. Puerto Ayora, Ecuador. pp 120-121. https://www.darwinfoundation.org/en/publications/galapagos-atlas
  • Boersma, P.D., Steinfurth, A., Merlen, G., Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., Vargas, F.H. & P.G. Parker. 2013. Galápagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus). In: Garcia Borboroglu, P. & P.D. Boersma (Eds.). Penguins: Natural History and Conservation. University of Washington Press, Seattle, USA. pp. 285-302.

The “Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands”, in French “Fondation Charles Darwin pour les îles Galapagos”, Association International sans but lucratif (“AISBL”), has its registered office located at Drève du Pieuré 19, 1160 Brussels, and is registered under the trade registry of Brussels under the number 0409.359.103.

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