Seabirds are important bio-indicators for marine ecosystem conservation. Monitoring at logistically-challenging seabird colonies takes extensive resources and expensive man-hours to complete. The use of remote time-lapse photography to collect population parameters at seabird colonies is a novel way to reduce researcher effort while collecting valuable data. To illustrate the applicability of this method, data were collected at a Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia) colony on Kippaku, Greenland. Time-lapse photography was used to take pictures once per hour of a predetermined study plot for the duration of the breeding season, and the pictures were then analyzed using GIS software. By using a photo-capture interval of one picture per hour during one murre breeding season, the study showed a seasonal trend in attendance peaking in the mid chick-rearing period, a diurnal trend with a small peak at ca. 07:00 hr and a larger peak at ca. 19:00 hr. The study showed that careful choice of photo-capture interval is important to reduce the possibility of misrepresenting the diurnal trend of the study species. Compared to the 1-hr photo-capture interval, intervals of 2 and 4 hr accurately depicted the diurnal trend, while a 3-hr interval showed the trend but with a misrepresentation of the first attendance peak. A 5-hr interval introduced stochastic effects that did not show the correct diurnal trend. The proposed method can be applied to colonial breeding seabirds and/or other similar systems for population monitoring. Researcher effort and costs associated with data collection for population monitoring of seabird colonies can be greatly reduced and population estimates can be drastically improved by the use of remote time-lapse photography.
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Vol. 36 • No. 3