Response of breeding waterbird communities to the effects of hurricanes remains poorly understood. The impact of two 2008 hurricanes on the breeding waterbird community was investigated at the Isles Dernieres Barrier Island Refuge in southern Louisiana using pre- and post-hurricane survey data. After the 2008 hurricanes, the breeding community was reduced from 44,042 breeding pairs in 2008 to 27,977 pairs in 2009 and to 23,544 pairs in 2010. Populations of the five most abundant species, Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla), Royal Tern (Thallasseus maximus), Sandwich Tern (Thallasseus sandvincensis), and Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger), decreased from 2008 to 2010. In contrast, populations of Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja), Sooty Tern (Onychoprion fuscatus), and Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) increased from 2008 to 2009 but declined in 2010. The dramatic decline of total breeding pairs in the year following hurricanes demonstrates the vulnerability of this community to tropical storms and habitat degradation. Further investigations of this community are necessary to understand how major disturbances affect resilience and long-term viability of colonial waterbird communities on barrier islands.
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Vol. 36 • No. 1