2017 SOFTS Conference: Urban Bird Summit
Status, Trends, and Risks to Species that Call the Corridor Home
In coordination with Detroit’s 2017 designation as an Urban Bird Treaty City, the State of the Strait, the Detroit Zoo, and the Metro Detroit Nature Network partnered to present a conference with the theme “Urban Bird Summit: Status, Trends, and Risks to Species that Call the Corridor Home”.
The conference was held on November 9, 2017 at the Detroit Zoo, Royal Oak, Michigan.
Presentations from the 2017 Urban Bird Summit
Below is a list of the sessions and presentations made at the 2017 Urban Bird Summit. Where available, you can click on the title link of a presentation to download a PDF version of the slides that accompanied the talk.
Advisory Committee, DRHW
Detroit River Hawk Watch is the premier citizen science initiative of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. It is a partnership among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Refuge’s Friends Organization called the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance, Huron Clinton Metroparks, and the Detroit River Hawk Watch Advisory Committee. Raptor count data are entered into a North American database managed by the Hawk Migration Association of North America. More information on DRHW is available online at: http://www.drhawkwatch.org/
Hawk watchers have been recording data on hawk migrations for decades. Through the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory and Hawk Migration Association of North America, an electronic database system, called HawkCount, was developed, which allows near real-time data entry of hawk counts. Data for more than 200 hawk watches in North America are now entered and available on HawkCount.org
Michigan DNR Wildlife Biologist
A peregrine falcon reintroduction program began in Michigan in 1987 with 193 falcons released. This program was highly successful, and the Michigan peregrine population has grown. However, managing wildlife in an urban setting has unique issues. This presentation gives several case studies of challenges and successes in the reintroduction of peregrine falcons, particularly when dealing with human activities, such as building renovations.
Detroit Zoological Society
Osprey historically nested throughout the northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas, but in the 1990s a few pairs began nesting south of this range. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources initiated a program to jumpstart this southern expansion with a hacking program at four different sites. From 1998 to 2017, 68 osprey chicks were relocated from northern Michigan nests to release sites in the southern part of the state. When these chicks returned, they began utilizing man-made structures to successfully nest. The program has now exceeded the DNR’s goal of 50 nesting pairs in southern Michigan.
Chris Mensing, Nicole LaFleur and John Hartig
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, East Lansing, MI
The decline and recovery of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is an excellent example of how humans can impact ecological systems both positively and negatively. Reproductive impairments primarily from DDT and PCB's significantly reduced the bald eagle population throughout the lower 48 states and southern Canada throughout the mid-20th century. In southeast Michigan, no bald eagles successfully reproduced between 1961 and 1987. Fortunately, over the last two decades, the bald eagle's reproductive output has increased to levels that are indicative of a stable or increasing population. As a indicator of ecosystem health, the bald eagle's health and the presence of organochlorine compounds and heavy metals, as well as emerging new generation compounds, continues to be monitored.
Stephanie Beilke, Erin Rowan and Caleb Putnam
Audubon Great Lakes & Detroit Audubon
The North American Black Tern (Chlidonias niger surinamensis) has experienced severe population declines in the Upper Great Lakes and Prairie Pothole regions of the U.S. over the past 30 years. The species is now listed as ‘Endangered’ in several states and as a ‘Species of Conservation Concern’ in most others. In particular, this species’ numbers in Michigan are perilously low, without a clear understanding of the underlying causes. Population demographic information for most Black Tern colonies in the Great Lakes Region is lacking. To address this knowledge gap, Audubon Great Lakes and Detroit Audubon began a long-term mark-recapture study in 2013 at the largest remaining colony of Black Terns in Michigan at Saint Clair Flats. Additional population monitoring studies began in Ogontz Bay in 2016 and are projected to start in Wigwam Bay in 2018. This state-wide research aims to identify the population pressures that are contributing to the decline of the Black Tern in the Great Lakes Region. The results of this study to-date indicate that productivity in Michigan is high, however further study is needed to determine adult and juvenile survivorship, site fidelity and colony exchange.
Detroit Zoological Society
Common terns (Sterna hirundo) have declined in the last three decades in the southeast Michigan. Here they fluctuated in abundance reaching a peak of 4,600 nesting pairs in the 1960s since records began in the early 20th century (Norwood et al. 2011). In recent years, numbers have dipped to a high of 316 in 2003 (Szczechowski and Bull 2007) to 135 in 2008 (Cuthbert and Wires 2008; Norwood 2009). There are currently four colonies located on artificial islands in the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. Two of the Detroit River colonies, which are located on the protection piers of the Wayne County and Bridge Company bridges to Grosse Ile, are largely unmanaged. The third Detroit River colony, located on the City of Detroit municipal water dyke on Belle Isle Park and the colony located on one of two Lake St. Clair south channel range lights, are intensely managed. Habitat restoration was conducted at all sites prior to attracting common terns. Social attraction methods (common tern decoys and non-aggression calls) were employed at the Belle Isle site. As of 2017, the population at the Wayne County bridge is declining at about 15 pairs and the Bridge Company bridge site appears to be stable at about 60 pairs. The Belle Isle colony fluctuates with an average of 12-15 pairs. The Lake St. Clair colony has been the most prolific with about 150 pairs.
Kristie A. Stein, Laura J. Kearns, and Chris M. Tonra
Ohio State University & Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Advances in tracking technology, such as tag minimization and increased battery life, are allowing us to better understand how individuals move during all stages of their life cycle. Limited information, primarily obtained from band recoveries, exists on the movement ecology of Black-crowned Night-Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) breeding in North America. The Black-crowned Night-Heron is listed as a threatened species in Ohio due to a decline in the number of nesting pairs and colonies within the state since the 1970s. To identify local movements and migratory strategies, we deployed ten platform transmitting terminals (Tag mass: 29g, TAV-2630, Telonics, Inc.) onto adult Black-crowned Night-Herons and 60 nanotags (Tag mass: 4.8g, NTQB-6-2, Lotek Wireless) onto juveniles in the western Lake Erie basin in July-August of 2016. Tagged adults were tracked via the ARGOS system, while we used an array of 13 automated telemetry towers to track movements of juvenile birds. Outside of the 13 local towers, juvenile birds were detected on 7 towers around Lake Erie and 4 towers in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. Results from the satellite tracking indicate that Ohio night-herons utilize different migratory strategies with regard to timing, stopovers, and distance from breeding ground. Migration departure times were spread out over a period of 3 months with three birds departing in September, four in October, and two in November. Stopover duration ranged from 1-48 days. Seven individuals utilized a short-distance migration strategy in that their wintering location was less than 2,000 km away from their breeding site, while the remaining two night-herons undertook a long-distance strategy (>2,000 km from breeding site). I will present preliminary evidence of variation in local and large-scale movements of adult and juvenile night-herons. By establishing connectivity of Ohio’s breeding population to wintering sites, we further our understanding of potential hazards to this species and can identify states with which to partner in conservation efforts.
Keith Grasman, Mandy Annis, Jeremy Moore, Lisa Williams
Calvin College & US Fish and Wildlife Service, East Lansing
Fish-eating birds are excellent sentinel species for assessing and monitoring ecosystem health. The Great Lakes have been subject to a high number of environmental stressors, including a variety of chemicals such as PCBs and dioxins. Such chemical contaminants have had documented impacts on fish-eating birds, such as egg shell thinning and birth defects. This project is reassessing wildlife-related beneficial use impairments in colonial waterbirds in the Saginaw Bay and River Raisin areas of concern.
Michigan DNR, Southeast Regional Supervisor
Southeast Michigan's Wetland Wonders are five of the seven premier Managed Waterfowl Hunt Areas (MWHAs) in the state. These areas are scattered across southeastern Lower Peninsula. These wetland areas were created in the 1960s to provide exceptional waterfowl hunting opportunities, and are still managed today to provide waterfowl habitat for nesting and migration and for the benefit of other wetland dependent wildlife. Since the beginning, the areas have been funded by hunting license fees and area use fees, but they are open for anyone to visit, use and enjoy most of the year. Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, Harsen’s Island State Wildlife Area, Shiawassee River State Game Area, Fish Point State Wildlife Area and Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area. These wetland gems are managed intensively to provide optimum habitat for a whole host of wildlife species and plant species.
Audubon Great Lakes
This talk covers three points: (1) why do we need native plants for birds? (2) what are some opportunities to take action? and (3) how are opportunities for action being scaled up? Bird populations are subject to stressors such as climate change and human development, which reduce available habitat. The talk recommends creating a bird-friendly back yard through careful landscaping decisions, and provides examples of beneficial plants.
Chicago Audubon, Chicago Bird Collision Monitors
It is unclear why birds are impacted by light, but it is clear that urban light can have a devastating effect on birds. Humans design highly lit urban spaces for a variety of reasons, including aesthetics, safety, and symbolism, such as for the Twin Towers memorial. Lights Out Chicago is a voluntary program where buildings in Chicago turn out unnecessary lights after dark. This program has been successful, but there are still challenges. Ideally this program should be developed into an ordinance, rather than a voluntary program.
Heidi Trudell and Alice Elliott
Washtenaw Safe Passage& Great Lakes/Detroit Safe Passage
Window strikes are one of the most ubiquitous causes of unintentional and preventable bird mortality in North America. A citizen science, volunteer-initiated study of several low-rise public buildings in eastern Washtenaw County during 2016 provides a broad assessment of how the region’s buildings impact both local and migratory bird species.
Bonnie Van Dam
Detroit Zoological Society
Beginning in 2013, the Detroit Zoo started a tracking and reporting system for bird collisions on Zoo property. In 2015, bird collision awareness was added to new employee orientation. This talk summarizes efforts that the Zoo has undertaken to reduce bird collisions and educate visitors. Aspects of different collision reduction tactics are discussed, including the use of Ornilux UV glass, fritted glass, FeatherFriendly 3M collision dots, and ABC BirdTape.