The number of forest birds in the CNMI is believed to have taken a massive hit following Super Typhoon Yutu.
According to wildlife supervisor Jill Liske-Clark of the CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife, the division expects to see a massive drop in the number of forest birds in the CNMI in their upcoming bird survey.
“Although we expect those numbers to be down, we also expect a relatively quick recovery once the forest starts recovering, so we hope in, like, a couple of years, it will be back to where they were at, provided there are no more typhoons,” she said.
Liske-Clark said the division has seen a drop in the number of birds in the CNMI after Super Typhoon Soudelor in 2015 and they expect to see the same thing again.
“Following Soudelor, we saw that and, like I said, we saw those populations come right back. A year or two, they were right back to where they were before Soudelor and we now expect the same thing after Yutu,” she said.
The species expected to be affected the most are CNMI forest birds like the golden white-eye, bridled white-eye, Mariana kingfisher, rufous fantail, honeyeaters, etc.
Liske-Clark said that birds are no different than humans when it comes to major storms.
“No one comes to rebuild their homes. They have to rebuild their own and they have to wait for the forest to recover, so when typhoons move through, they flatten all that forest. We don’t think there’s a lot of direct mortality to the birds. I’m sure there must be a few, but the impact is more in that the place where they built nests is flattened, the place where they find shelter, the place where they find food, all of those things become very difficult for many months after the typhoon so I think the biggest reason that the population drops is that you have the natural mortality, the birds that were going to die anyway, but you don’t have the nesting so you don’t have the new birds coming in to replenish the population, so the total size goes down,” she said.
The division does regular surveys on a quarterly basis on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, according to Liske-Clark.
“We go out four times a year to the same points on the ground, scattered across the islands, and record the birds that we see are at that point and, by repeating those same methods, same methods, and this goes back 15 years, we can calculate the trends for the population on island,” she said.
The division’s next survey is scheduled for April.