The endangered Mariana Swiftlet, Aerodramus bartschi (Mearns, 1909), occurs in its native habitat on only three islands worldwide—Guam, Saipan, and Aguiguan. It is locally extinct on the islands of Rota and Tinian, and numbers have declined on Guam. On Saipan and Aguiguan, the bird remains common. We present previously unpublished data from reports lodged with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Division of Fish and Wildlife combined with an analysis of arrival count data from surveys conducted regularly on Saipan (1985–2005) and opportunistically on Aguiguan (1985–2002). Direct counts of swiftlets arriving at nesting caves did not permit island-wide population estimates but provided an index useful for assessing relative abundance. On Aguiguan, swiftlets occurred in only a few of the available caves; the population was small, more densely concentrated than on the other islands, and relatively stable. On Saipan, swiftlet numbers declined for the first part of the monitoring period (1985–1992), then increased significantly (1998–2005), and now stand at their highest level (>5,000 birds) since 1985. Large between-year fluctuations, high variation in colony attendance patterns, and occasional abandonment and recolonization of some caves were evident during the 20-yr monitoring period. Of the potential constraints to the population, pesticide use, typhoons and supertyphoons, habitat alteration by feral animals, human disturbance in the nesting caves, and predation remain areas of concern. Conservation measures may have lessened some disturbance events and nest damage by cockroaches, while other measures, such as translocation, may improve the species' chances of persistence.
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Vol. 62 • No. 2