Black Turnstone

FY 2014 | 1 – Understand | 14-10-04

Black Turnstone

Mary Anne Bishop, Prince William Sound Science Center
Contract Term: 01/01/14-12/31/15
Award: $50,000

SCOPE OF WORK: Few studies have investigated breeding or migrating Black Turnstone because the population is relatively small (<100,000 birds) and sparsely distributed, and their preferred non-breeding rocky shoreline habitats are difficult to access. Only one major stopover site has been identified on their migration route to and from western Alaska: northern Montague Island in Alaska’s Prince William Sound (Norton et al. 1990; Bishop and Green 2001). Because of its importance to Black Turnstones as well as Surfbirds, northern Montague Island was designated an Important Bird Area in 2006. Surveys conducted at Montague Island during spring 2010 by the Prince William Sound Science Center showed that numbers of turnstones stopping in spring have declined substantially in the 13 years since the previous surveys. In the mid-1990’s more than 11,000 individuals were observed during single-day, peak spring migration counts while 2010 surveys observed less than 3,600 birds total during 20 days of extensive surveys spanning the entire spring migration period.

The goal of this project is to understand if the decline in observed numbers of Turnstones stopping at Montague Island represents a true population decline due to climate-change impacts on the breeding grounds, or if the reduced numbers reflect a shift in the migration route and stopover sites used in Prince William Sound. We received funding from ConocoPhillips ($50,000), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation ($75,000) as well as in-kind support from the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge to conduct a 3-year (2013-2015) study (see Appendix I for study proposal). Our study is designed to address the following questions:

(a) If Black Turnstones are not stopping at Montague Island, are they using other stopover sites in Prince William Sound, and if so, for how long?;

b) Are there alternate stopover sites outside Prince William Sound (e. g., northern Aleutian Basin) that host large numbers of this species?; and,

(c) Is there evidence of a population decline on the breeding grounds in western Alaska that would explain the reduced numbers at Montague Island?

With the funding provided by the Oil Spill Recovery Institute, we aim to address the first question: If Black Turnstones are not stopping at Montague Island, are they using other stopover sites in PWS, and if so, for how long?