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    Description

    is report describes the eects of Hurricanes Irma (6 Sept.) and Maria (20 Sept.) in 2017 on bird populations in northeastern Puerto Rico by comparing the Fajardo Christmas Bird Count (FCBC) post-hurricane results (17 Dec. 2017) with pre-hurricane results (18 Dec. 2016). Although the search eort, measured as party hours, was less aer the hurricane (45 vs. 54), both FCBCs used similar procedures and relied on volunteers who counted birds in a circular area prescribed by a diameter of 15 miles. Total numbers of individual birds decreased aer the hurricanes compared to the 2016 pre-hurricane FCBC (1,934 birds vs. 2,579 birds) as did total species (82 species vs. 97 species). When corrected for search eort the number of species per party hour (ph) was identical in pre- and post-FCBCs (1.8), but the number of individuals per ph decreased by 10.2% from 2016 (47.8) to 2017 (42.9). Most aquatic species (tijeretas, pelicanos, patos, gaviotas), shorebirds (playeros, chorlos) and waders (garzas) declined as expected for species exposed to the direct eects of storm winds and rain. Indirect eects likely caused most declines of nectarivores (-310%, hummingbirds [zumbadores] and Bananaquits [Reinita Común]) as expected for species that lost their food sources (owers). Fruits and seeds also appeared to have declined and some fruit/seedeaters correspondingly declined as expected (White-crowned Pigeon [Paloma Cabeciblanca] -82%; Puerto Rican Bullnch [Come ñame]) -70%), perhaps due to mortality or they moved to other sites. In contrast, other fruit/seed-eaters increased (Scaly-naped Pigeon [Paloma Turca] +82%; Redlegged rush [Zorzal de Patas Colorados] +100%; Pearly-eyed rasher [Zorzal Pardo] +124%; Puerto Rican Oriole [Calandria] +140%), likely due to increased detectability as they wandered more widely than normal in search of food. Counts of insectivores increased substantially aerwards (+1862%), probably due in part to increased detectability, because some vocalized more frequently than normal and were easier to detect (Puerto Rican Woodpecker [Carpentaro] +57%) and some species normally hidden high in the canopy were easier to see once they foraged at ground level in the fallen canopy (Puerto Rican Tody [San Pedrito] +92%). e 2017 FCBC occurred when most birds were wandering widely in search of resources lost in the storm. e proportion of the declines attributable to mortality versus poststorm emigration out of the count circle is unknown. us the FCBC occurred during a dicult period to assess population status, which will require future FCBCs aer most species have returned to a more sedentary existence.

    Publication Notes

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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

    Citation

    Wunderle, Jr, Joseph M. 2017. Effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria on birds in the Fajardo Christmas bird count in northeastern Puerto Rico: a preliminary assessment. Acta Científica, 31(1-3):18-33.

    Keywords

    Caribbean, citizen science, cyclonic storm effects, bird populations, habitat disturbance.

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https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/58770