Will Rat Island in Alaska become a seabird island again?


This is a horned puffin video.

From Wildlife Extra:

Ecological wasteland to be cleared of rat infestation

Within the next 12 months, an island that has been an ecological wasteland for over 200 years will be put on the road to recovery. In 1780, a Japanese ship ran aground on what is today called Rat Island, and many rats jumped ship to find a rat paradise, thousands of ground nesting seabirds. In 1922, Arctic foxes were stocked on the island by fur ranchers, further adding to the devastation.

Prior to these two introduced predators, the island held thousands of nesting seabirds, including Fork-tailed Storm Petrels, Whiskered Auklets, and both Horned and Tufted Puffins. These birds were easy prey because their nests or nesting burrows remain unguarded while the parents forage at sea. The rats ate the eggs, killed the chicks, and harassed the parents until almost no seabirds returned to nest on the island.

1964 – Foxes eradicated

Island restoration began in 1964, when the foxes were eradicated, and now, a solution to the rat problem seems to be at hand. The Nature Conservancy is collaborating with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Island Conservation to remove all the rats from the island. Rodent eradications have proven incredibly successful at other sites, especially in New Zealand and Scotland.

The endangered Xantus’s Murrelet saw an astounding 80% increase in nesting success when introduced rats were removed from Anacapa Island. However, the process is not easy. It takes years of evaluation and planning to select a target island and plan the removal effort. Removing rats from the island using controlled poison applications is expensive; however in this case, funding will come from public sources and dozens of private donors.

Rat Island

Rat Island is one of the Aleutian Islands, which are collectively designated as a Globally Important Bird Area because of their importance to seabird populations. Three of the Aleutians support more than one million birds each. There are several other islands in the chain with infestations of rats, but the next target has yet to be selected. Each island presents its own potential rewards and challenges. The size, the value to nesting birds, the presence of other invasive creatures, the cost and the risk of reintroduction are just some of the factors to be considered.

Crested auklets: here.

Larger Crests Signal Lower Stress in Male Crested Auklets: here.

Cape gannets in South Africa: here.

Auklets and penguins: birds use feathers ‘to touch’: here.

Attracting the opposite sex is not the only reason some birds have elaborate head ornamentation. Avoiding things that might bump your head in the dark is also important, at least for crested and whiskered auklets – seabirds famed for their decorative head feathers: here.

3 thoughts on “Will Rat Island in Alaska become a seabird island again?

  1. Pingback: Rat-free Rat Island in Alaska | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Whiskered auklets, new study | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Arctic seabirds and global warming, new research | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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