The CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife expects that many nests of the wedge-tailed shearwaters on Managaha Island were flooded or collapsed from Super Typhoon Yutu’s fury because these birds are burrow nesters.
Although they usually don’t monitor specific nests, Wildlife Section supervisor Jill Liske-Clark said yesterday that the exception is the nesting colony of wedge-tailed shearwater birds on Managaha, which they have been monitoring for many years. She expects the birds’ eggs and nests were destroyed by the strong winds of the typhoon.
“It is right at the end of their nesting season when chicks are almost ready to fledge (leave the nest),” she said.
Since Tasi Tours is currently not running trips to Managaha, Liske-Clark said they do not have transportation to check the nesting colony. “We will go check just as soon as we can get there.”
Over a decade ago, the division began efforts to rehabilitate the nesting sites for the wedge-tailed shearwater birds on Managaha. It was reported last year that such efforts resulted in a remarkable survival rate for the birds.
In June 2017, the division reported 170 active nests that produced 96 chicks—the highest total to date since the project began.
The colony on Managaha was confirmed in 2000 and is reportedly the only known nesting site of wedge-tailed shearwater birds in the CNMI.
According to the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, the wedge-tailed shearwater is cousin to the albatross and has a dark-brown or gray-brown top, with a white underside, making it one of the rarest species on Saipan.
Liske-Clark noted that what they saw after Typhoon Soudelor’s devastation in 2015 was a short-term decline in bird populations in the CNMI, but within a year or two populations have rebounded to pre-typhoon levels.
“I suspect that we will see the same with Yutu,” she said.
She noted that they had just completed the quarterly monitoring in October right before Yutu hit, so they are implementing an extra round of monitoring now so they can measure the direct population-level impact from the storm.