For the First Time in Decades, Rare Birds Nest on Restored Chilean Island

For the First Time in Decades, Rare Birds Nest on Restored Chilean Island

In Pajaros Uno Island, La Higuera, Chile the Island Conservation is celebrating a groundbreaking milestone. For the first time in decades, the rare Peruvian Diving-Petrels, locally known as “yuncos,” have returned to nest on the island. These seabirds, crucial to the ecosystem’s health, have made their comeback less than a year after social attraction efforts began, indicating a rapid recovery.

Launched by Island Conservation in August 2020 and funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Packard Foundation, the restoration project successfully eradicated invasive predators from Pajaros Uno Island.

By December 2022, the island was declared predator-free, paving the way for native species to return. In November 2023, Island Conservation employed a social attraction program using audio recordings of bird calls to entice the yuncos back. This method had previously proven successful on the nearby island of Chañaral.

Pajaros Uno Island, spanning 70 hectares, is a crucial breeding ground for several Chilean seabird species. It supports approximately 3,000 pairs of Peruvian Boobies, the largest population of Kelp Gulls in northern Chile with around 2,000 pairs, and about 600 breeding pairs of the Vulnerable Humboldt Penguin.

Before the restoration, invasive rats posed a severe threat to the seabird population by preying on eggs and chicks, disrupting the nutrient cycle essential for the ecosystem. Coral Wolf, Conservation Science Program Manager at Island Conservation, emphasized the importance of seabirds in maintaining this cycle, explaining how their guano deposits sustain nearshore reefs.

During a recent monitoring visit, camera traps captured stunning images of yuncos exploring the restored island. The first sound system, installed on November 3, began playing bird calls, and by November 16, the first yunco was photographed, marking a swift response to the restoration efforts. This rapid attraction highlights the project’s significant impact.

Without invasive predators, two yunco couples now have a promising chance to breed, with natural burrows already discovered on the island. “It was thrilling to find these nesting pairs so soon after the restoration,” shared María José Vilches, Island Restoration Specialist at Island Conservation.

“Hearing the Peruvian Diving-petrels’ calls and finding their burrows was an incredible moment. Knowing they are safe from predators gives me hope for their survival.”

This article by Trinity Sparke was first published by One Green Planet on 8 June 2024. Image Credit :Agami Photo Agency/Shutterstock.

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