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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Videographic monitoring at caves to estimate population size of the endangered yǻyaguak (Mariana swiftlet) on Guam

P. Marcos Gorresen*, Paul Cryan, Megan Parker, Frank Alig, Melia Nafus, Eben H. Paxton

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The yǻyaguak (Mariana swiftlet; Aerodramus bartschi) is an endangered cave-nesting species historically found on Guam and the southern Mariana Islands, Micronesia. The population on Guam has been severely affected by the introduction of the brown treesnake Boiga irregularis. Population status assessments have, however, been challenging due to the limitations of traditional counting methods, which rely on visual observations at cave entrances and are prone to inaccuracies. To improve count accuracy, we estimated yǻyaguak population size and relative nesting activity using thermal and near-infrared videography. The population on Guam was surveyed at the island’s 3 known occupied caves (Mahlac, Maemong, and Fachi) between 2019 and 2023. Mahlac Cave harbored the largest colony, which ranged from 506 to 665 birds; Maemong Cave held 144 to 196 birds; and Fachi Cave, which is sometimes flooded, had 28 and 35 birds. Our estimates indicate a slight decline in the yǻyaguak population over the study period. This study demonstrates the potential of thermal and near-infrared videography for improved monitoring of yǻyaguak colonies and nesting activity, which will contribute to our understanding of population dynamics and effectiveness of management strategies such as brown treesnake control.