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ESR 45:147-157 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01127

Social facilitation for conservation planning: understanding fairy tern behavior and site selection in response to conspecific audio-visual cues

C. N. Greenwell1,2,*, K. S. Born3, R. Admiraal4, A. Hodgson1,2, J. N. Dunlop1,3, N. R. Loneragan1,2

1Conservation and Environmental Sciences, College of SHEE, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia
2Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems, Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia
3Conservation Council of Western Australia, Lotteries West House, 2 Delhi Street, West Perth, Western Australia 6150, Australia
4Victoria University of Wellington, School of Mathematics and Statistics, Kelburn Parade, Wellington 6012, New Zealand
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Simulated social facilitation techniques (e.g. decoys and call playbacks) are commonly used to attract seabirds to restored and artificially created nesting habitats. However, a lack of social stimuli and conspecific cueing at these habitats may limit the use of these sites, at least in the short term. Therefore, testing the effectiveness of simulated audio-visual cues for attracting gregarious birds is important for conservation planning. In this study, we (1) assessed whether call playback and decoys were associated with an increased likelihood of Australian fairy terns Sternula nereis nereis visiting potentially suitable nesting habitats; (2) tested their behavioral response to different cues; and (3) documented whether social facilitation had the potential to encourage colony establishment. A full cross-over study design consisting of all possible pairings of decoy and call playback treatments (control [no attractants], decoys, call playback, both decoys and playback), allocated as part of a random block design, was undertaken at 2 sites. Linear modeling suggested that call playback was important in explaining the time spent aerial prospecting as well as the maximum number of fairy terns aerial prospecting, although this only appeared to be the case for 1 of the 2 sites. Decoys, on the other hand, did not appear to have any effect on time spent aerial prospecting. The results from this study suggest that audio cues have the potential to encourage site selection by increasing social stimuli, but attractants may be required over several breeding seasons before colonies are established.


KEY WORDS: Conservation behavior · Laridae · Managed site · Seabird restoration · Sensory ecology


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Cite this article as: Greenwell CN, Born KS, Admiraal R, Hodgson A, Dunlop JN, Loneragan NR (2021) Social facilitation for conservation planning: understanding fairy tern behavior and site selection in response to conspecific audio-visual cues. Endang Species Res 45:147-157. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01127

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