Avian Restoration in the Prairie-Oak Ecosystem: A Reintroduction Case Study of Western Bluebirds to San Juan Island, Washington

Avian reintroductions are an important conservation tool, but landbird reintroductions are substantially underrepresented compared to other avian taxa, which hinders progress in improving the value and efficacy of landbird reintroductions. We document an ongoing reintroduction of Western bluebirds (Sialis mexicana) to their historic range in the prairie-oak ecosystem on San Juan Island, Washington. Further, we assess the success of preliminary reintroductions and discuss the feasibility of further landbird reintroductions in this threatened ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest. We released 80 adults and 26 juveniles from 2007 to 2010 using a variety of soft-release techniques, and we collected demographic data on the reintroduced population. The program achieved preliminary criteria of success: individuals were safely translocated to the release site, and released individuals established breeding territories; both translocated individuals and their offspring reproduced successfully; and the reintroduced population grew each year. Results reinforced the use of large aviaries and two to three week holding periods for reintroductions of the genus Sialia, and also showed, for the first time, that the reintroduction of a migratory landbird can be effective. Besides contributing to bird conservation, the reintroduction generated tangible accomplishments towards conservation of prairie-oak habitats through education and habitat protection. Reintroductions of Western bluebirds to former parts of their range and of slender-billed white-breasted nuthatch to south Puget Sound should be considered practical options for future avian conservation efforts in the prairie-oak ecosystem.


For more articles from the Spring 2011 issue of Northwest Science please refer to the link below:

The Future of Restoration and Management of Prairie-Oak Ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest