Photography Project on Bird Diets

April 28, 2022 - 6:00 PM

Tufted Puffins nesting on Haystack Rock.\Photo by Tiffany Boothe.

CoastWatch hosts a webinar on a citizen science photography project that will assist scientists in understanding the habitat needs of coastal birds on Wednesday, April 28, at 6 p.m.

Noah Dolinajec, project manager of Birds with Fish, will speak on “Employing photography and community science to explore the diets of Oregon’s Tufted Puffins and other coastal birds.” The talk in free and open to all.

The project will help to answer some key questions: Why has Oregon’s Tufted Puffin population declined so much? Is there a reason they aren’t rebounding? What are puffins feeding their chicks during breeding season? What are other coastal birds eating along the Oregon coast?

These are just some of the questions that remain unanswered about the Oregon coast’s iconic Tufted Puffins and other coastal dwelling species. After 2020, a year in which the Tufted Puffin was denied federal protections due to data gaps in things like chick diet composition and genetics, it became clear that addressing these gaps was necessary to inform future management decisions. The Oregon State University Seabird Oceanography Lab implemented a non-invasive approach to studying puffin chick diet by employing shore-based digital photography and community-sourced photography to capture photographs of tufted puffins, and other coastal birds, with bill loads – carrying fish in their bills back to the burrow to feed their chicks. A more thorough understanding of the forage fish that puffins, and other coastal birds, are consuming on the Oregon coast could provide important ecological indicators for both piscivorous coastal birds and Oregon’s forage fish populations.

Oregon’s dynamic and topographically diverse coastline presents challenges for studying burrow-nesting seabirds. The intertidal location of Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach provides a unique window into one of Oregon’s largest remaining Tufted Puffin colonies. This talk explores the applications and feasibility of using photography and community science to increase our understanding of the diets of Oregon’s Tufted Puffins and other coastal species that rely on marine and estuarine forage fish and other invertebrates.

Noah Dolinajec is the executive director of the Necanicum Watershed Council based in Seaside, Oregon. With the watershed council, he focuses on community engagement and hands-on coastal riparian and wetlands restoration and conservation to improve salmonid and avian habitats in the Necanicum Basin. He is also a professional science master’s degree student in the Seabird Oceanography Lab at Oregon State University and project manager for Birds with Fish, a community science initiative designed to enlist volunteer photographers in research.

To register for this event, go here.