Airdate: May 01, 2007
Scientist: Mary Ann Bishop
Shorebirds: Montague Island
Once a year on Alaska's Montague Island, whole populations of shorebirds feast on a plethora of herring eggs.
ambience: Shorebirds, surfbirds
We're listening to a ritual that takes place every spring on the Alaskan coast. It may sound like an avian frenzy, but it's the most important feeding time for Alaskan Shorebirds. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Two types of Shorebirds - surfbirds and black turnstones - migrate yearly from as far away as Chile up the Alaskan coast, feeding on the rocky shoreline areas. They live off of blue mussels and barnacles and on one rare occasion during the year, they get to feast on herring eggs. Since the timing of the birds' migration typically coincides with when the Pacific herrings spawn and lay their eggs, flocks of shorebirds are ready and waiting to gorge themselves on herring eggs before they continue on their migratory way. Their feasting takes place on Montague Island in Prince William Sound.
Mary Ann Bishop, is with the USDA Forest Service Northwest Research Station.
"This is where they come. The majority of the population of these two species of shorebirds - surfbirds and black turnstones stop at Montague Island, feed on those rocky shorelines and particularly feed on this herring spawn that is just millions and billions of eggs out there to feed on. And so they fatten up - they're only here probably a few days - but the whole populations, or close to, stop in at Montague around April 25 through May 10th and then they're gone. They're up. They get up to their breeding grounds, they're in much better condition because they have stopped at this area with all these rich food resources."
Once they fatten up, the birds continue on their way in preparation for their breeding season. We'll be doing some more Shorebird watching in Alaska in our next program.
Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.