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Q: Absence of seabirds in the Abacos ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Absence of seabirds in the Abacos
Category: Science > Biology
Asked by: thmarty-ga
List Price: $200.00
Posted: 21 Mar 2006 05:16 PST
Expires: 20 Apr 2006 06:16 PDT
Question ID: 709988
I visited the Abacos from March 7th until March 19th, 2006. There were
no seabirds in the harbors or on the surrounding seas such as pelicans
or seagulls, and in the marshes I saw but one great blue heron. I
stayed on a private island called Channel Cay and visited other cays
as well. Also I visited Marsh Harbor many times as well as Hopetown. I
went fishing on the surrounding seas for two days and the absence of
birds was eerie. Especially considering that nearby Florida has an
abundance of seabirds (at least on the gulfside which I have more
experience with). Fisherman look for congregations of birds that
are feeding on baitfish which always means that larger fish will be
around feeding as well. I only caught a few mackerels and a barracuda
but many more days of fishing would be required to draw any
conclusions from it. I did hear there, that the fishing was not as
good anymore for all it's worth. I am thinking of moving there but
first want to
know if this almost complete absence of seabirds is normal for the
time of year or if it is not normal and is caused by some sort of
ecological problem that is developing there.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 21 Mar 2006 08:09 PST

Out of curiousity, did you ask any of the locals about this?  What was
their reaction?

Many island seabirds are seasonal, and you may have hit the island at
a bit of a lull in between visiting birds.

For instance, look at this description of one of the Abacos:

"Anyone visiting New Plymouth during the spring and summer knows the
cry of the Laughing Gull, one of three types of gulls found in Abaco.
They appear suddenly in March, swirling and swooping over the harbour,
making raucous cries and coming remarkably close to anyone willing to
feed them. At six-and-a-half inches in length, they are the smallest
of the gulls, and are easily identified by their black head, dark
bill, dark grey upperparts and white underparts. Winter visitors
include two other species, Herring Gulls and Ring-Billed Gulls, both
in two different plumages. But the Laughing Gull is the only gull
around in the summer months. While their habitat varies, and they
sometimes disappear for periods starting in September, they are still
around, flocking back to town during storms or fine weather..."

It sure sounds like the birds come and go periodically and somewhat
regularly, but not following any precise schedule.

Let me know as much as you can about what you found out during your
visit while I continue my research into this interesting question.


Clarification of Question by thmarty-ga on 21 Mar 2006 11:05 PST
Believe it or not the oddity of almost no seabirds did not occur to us
until the last couple of days - we didn't go fishing offshore until
the last two days and it was when we tried to spot birds out there
that we realized we hadn't seen any seabirds anywhere, ever while
there. The place is amazingly beautiful to those who appreciate it
like us and had too much to pack in over the last couple days to get
around to asking - we certainly would have if we were there another
few days  - we occasionally spotted a single small seabird mainly in
the outer sea (the inner sea is the Sea of Abaco). I will consider
whether there is anyone we met there who could answer this question

Request for Question Clarification by umiat-ga on 22 Mar 2006 09:56 PST
Hello, thmarty-ga! 

 You might find the following references interesting. I don't know
that they constitute an "official answer", but the first article
highlights the general lack of comprehensive information concerning
seabirds throughout the Bahamas, and the subsequent personal accounts
ascertain that there are healthy populations of seabirds in the Abacos
area at various times of the year! I did several searches concerning
declining populations, pollution effects, weather (hurricanes) and
seabirds in the Bahamas, etc, but found nothing alarming.

 I hope provide you with some reassurance that ther ARE seabirds out
there! Perhaps a longer stay and different timing would have made a


The following article is quite interesting if you read it in it's
entirety. I excerpted a few sections.

"Seabirds in the Bahamian Archipelago and Adjacent Waters: Transient,
Wintering, and Rare Nesting Species North American Birds, Jun/Jul 2003
 by White, Anthony W


"The status of most nonbreeding seabirds in the Bahamian Archipelago
and its adjacent waters is poorly understood. Much of the available
information is based on sight reports unsupported by specimens or
photographic evidence. This paper reviews published and unpublished
reports in order to assess the status and distribution in the Bahama
Islands of 37 seabird species from families Diomedeidae,
Procellariidae, Hydrobatidae, Phaethontidae, Sulidae, Pelecanidae,
Fregatidae, Laridae, and Alcidae, as well as Scolopacidae for the
subfamily Phalaropodinae."


From the conclusion:

"The open waters of the Bahamas have not received sufficient coverage
by scientific surveys to provide an accurate portrait of the seabird
distribution there, nor have there been repeated forays by
birdwatchers that would provide complementary data, despite the
presence of numerous recreational boaters and fishermen
well-positioned to document the pelagic avifauna. Only one pelagic
birdwatching trip has been run from the Bahamas (Bracey 2001).

"It is hoped that the present paper will stimulate interest in the
photographic documentation of seabirds in the region, so that a
clearer picture of their spatial and temporal distribution will
emerge. A few sorties from shore could change radically our assessment
of the status and distribution of many of the species considered

Personal Accounts


"With the wind having blown strongly from the east for four weeks, and
it being the season of seabird movement, Woody and Betsy Bracey, Paul
Dean and Lionel Levine went over 20 miles out NE into the Atlantic on
the Predator captained by James Nielsen of Treasure Cay. We had
postponed the trip the day before because of high winds and rough seas
but still had waves of 6'- 8' and even higher through Whale Cay
passage. On the way out we found that the Bridled Terns had returned
to their nesting place on Don't Rock. Just past Whale Cay a pair of
Laughing Gulls were harassing a flock of migrating (all black bills)
Roseate Terns.

"It was some time and distance into rough sea before we encountered
pelagic birds. Audubon's Shearwaters began to appear five miles from
land but only as singles. Our destination was "Tabletops", a seamount
20 miles offshore where the sea rises from over 3000' deep to several
hundred feet causing an upwelling. The fishing is usually excellent
here and if the fish are here so are the birds.

"A Wilson's Storm Petrel and a Black-capped Petrel were seen as we
neared our destination but it was so rough it was difficult to hold
binoculars steady. At "Tabletops" the water turned from a deep blue to
an eerie purplish-blue colour and in the distance we saw a Magnificent
Frigatebird harassing feeding terns. We stopped the boat and began
putting overboard conch slop that we'd brought as chum.

"At first the frigatebird and terns seemed to fly toward us but then
veered off. During the trip we put out six 5-gallon containers of
conch but it proved totally ineffective in luring any seabirds or

"We lingered at this location for about half an hour just drifting but
the rocking motion was just too much and it was difficult to focus on
the birds which did come close enough to view - Bridled and Sooty
Terns, Audubon's Shearwaters and Storm Petrels. We decided to troll
using artificial lures at 6-8 knots per hour and went parallel to the
coast of Great Guana Cay heading SW. It was a relief to be going with
the seas for a change. More birds began to appear and the viewing
conditions improved considerably. Two mid-sized Greybacked Terns flew
by but were too distant to diagnose with certainty. Probably Common
but Arctic had been seen a week before onshore when the winds were at
their peak (30-40 mph).

"Our best finds were two different species of storm petrels: first a
noticeably larger Leach's right beside the boat, and then a much more
direct flying Band-rumped. We had excellent views of each but they did
not linger and conditions were too rough to get a photo despite having
cameras ready. Our total of eight storm petrels were a high number in
this area. They seem to occur in direct ratio to how rough the seas
are, which is why they're called storm petrels.

"Nice surprises were Brown Booby and White -tailed Tropicbird Singles,
Sooty and Bridled Terns passed regularly as did Audubon's Shearwaters
but none of the larger shearwaters (Cory's, Greater and Sooty) we'd
hoped for. Not one fish strike in four hours of trolling. We were out
for seven hours (10 am - 5 pm) under cloudy skies with winds of 15 mph
from the NE. We covered the ocean from Green Turtle Cay in the north
to Man-O-War Cay in the south staying well offshore the whole time.
Things picked up on the way in at about 4 pm as they usually do for
some reason closer to shore but before reaching the reefs. Once inside
the Sea of Abaco Least Terns were seen fishing for small fry,
Double-crested Cormorants and a lone Brown Pelican on pilings but
surprisingly no Royal Terns. All in all it was a successful trip.
Species Totals: Brown Booby - 1, Double-crested Cormorant - 6,
Magnificent Frigatebird - 1, Laughing Gulls - 20+, Brown Pelican - 1,
Black-capped Petrel - 1, Wilson's Storm Petrel - 6, Leach's Storm
Petrel - 1, Band-rumped Storm Petrel - 1, Audubon's Shearwaters - 20+,
Roseate Tern - 20, Common Tern(?) - 2, Least Tern - 6, Bridled Tern -
20, Sooty Tern - 6, White-tailed Tropicbird -1.


April 19, 2005 - May 24, 2005

"A few days later, we moved down to the southern end of the Abacos to
Lynyard Cay, raising the spinnaker in light air. It was a nice sail

"The next morning we decided to go fishing. One thing that Jim wanted
to do was catch a dolphin fish, AKA Mahi Mahi, or maybe a Wahoo, both
known for their brilliant markings and great food value. On a mission
for fish, we set our sails early and left out of Little Harbor?s
channel into the Atlantic. We motor sailed and trolled north, offshore
in the Atlantic all day. At the end of the day, we came back into the
sea of Abaco at Loggerhead channel at the south end of infamous Whale
Cay and anchored at Baker?s Bay.

"We fished hard and used all the tactics. I trolled through areas of 
*** seabirds *** working the water?s surface


An account from 1st March to 4 April 205 (observing seabirds from the shore)

"We drove south and birded Abaco National Park until 8 a.m. The birds
were very active and in the vicinity of the "Y" and the road south to
Hole-in-the-wall we saw several pairs of Bahama Parrots, numerous
Cuban Emeralds, 2 Cuban Pewees, several cooperative Bahama
Mockingbirds, heard several Bahama Yellowthroats Abaco National
Park(but saw only one), plus the expected winter residents.

"At 8 a.m. we took a short hiatus and drove north to Crossing Rock to
ocean watch. The winds were strong out of the southeast, creating
favorable conditions for seabirds to pass close to shore. In a half
hour of watching we saw 2+ Audubon?s Shearwaters, 20+ unidentified
shearwaters (most were probably Audubon?s), and a small flock of
Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones on the beach...

Additional Reading

 The following article focuses primarily on San Salvador which is further south.

 Read "Research on Behavioral Ecology and Conservation of Bahamian
Seabirds (with photographs)" William K. Hayes. Laboratory of
behavioral ecology and conservation


If this type of information interests you, I will continue to poke
around a bit more to see what else I can find. Let me know.



Request for Question Clarification by umiat-ga on 22 Mar 2006 17:24 PST
While this is a tangent stemming from your original topic, I figured
you might be enough of a bird lover to appreciate the plight of
seabirds and nesting areas in the Bahamas, and more specifically, San

See "Can San Salvador?s Iguanas and Seabirds Be Saved?" William K.
Hayes, Ph.D. Bahamas J. Sci. 11(1):2-8. 2003

If you scroll down to the section on "San Salvador?s Seabirds" you
will find an overview of the threats facing seabirds throughout the

Clarification of Question by thmarty-ga on 22 Mar 2006 20:07 PST
To: Umiat-ga

I find this inconclusive (which may be all that can be concluded)
because some articles relate to spotting lots of birds but the last
article from Loma Linda U. indicates a deepening problem. A real
oddity I now recall, is that we took a net to cast for baitfish. In
Florida or Queensland, Australia the last two places I fished,
baitfish were plentiful and easily caught. When we pulled out the net
at the place where we rented our boat they said not to bother with it
because there were no baitfish in these waters. And there weren't. So,
if there's no food around for most types of seabirds that live off the
same baitfish used to catch larger fish, then why would they be there?
Why would there be fish there with no food to eat? We caught nothing
offshore and only small snappers and panfish inshore - what are they

Basically we've narrowed down the place to move to, to either Florida
in the Keys or to the Abacos. I am not a birdwatcher or lover at all,
I just want to find out the best place to go from the perspective of
which is the most ecologically sound area with the most fish and
wildlife. So, in reality what I need is a comparative conclusion. This
is my first time so I don't know how all this works when I change what
I want slightly - I find that your articles helped me to express what
I need out of this, better. Let me know.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 22 Mar 2006 20:31 PST
You're a lucky've got two good researchers (if I may say
so myself) -- me and umiat -- on your case.

I contacted two of the leading bird specialists in the Abacos, and
I've already heard back from one, who surprised me quite a bit with
his pithy message:

Thanks...I've been away but also haven't seen any seabirds since I'm back on 3/19.

I'll let you know if the trend continues.

It's worrisome.

So, apparently your observations were right on the money, and are
being echoed by at least this one specialist on birds.  What's more,
it seems to be something quite recent.

I'll continue with these communications to see what else I can find
out.  In the meantime, I'll leave your question unlocked so that umiat
-- or any other researchers looking into this -- can post whatever
information they find as well.

It would be helpful to have a bit of guidance from you as to what sort
of information would make for the best answer for your needs, so that
we will know who is in the best position to provide it for you.

I'm an ecologist myself, and I can tell you right off the bat, that
whatever is going on in the Abacos, it probably pales in comparison to
the environmental pressures in most of Florida, with its dense,
fast-growing population, heavy reliance on big cars, big boats, big
farms, and its environmentally-sensitive landscape.

However, trying to compare which area is the most ecologically-damaged
can be a real apples vs oranges type contest, more often than not.

Let us know your thoughts at this point.



Clarification of Question by thmarty-ga on 23 Mar 2006 10:17 PST
To: pafalafa-ga 

I feel very honored to have two great researchers working on this. I
will digest this last material and get back to you asap. It is

Request for Question Clarification by umiat-ga on 23 Mar 2006 11:30 PST
Hello again!

 It seems to me that some of your best resources might be local
fishermen. They have intimate knowledge of cycles in fish catches and
would likely be the best observers of local seabird activity over a
series of years. I spent several years as a wildlife biologist in
Alaska, doing ecological surveys in the Beaufort Sea. When I think
back to the wildlife cycling I saw along the arctic coast and offshore
islands, both in bird and mammal populations, I can say that it is
very easy to make a snap judgment based on one trip which is not
necessarily based on scientific reality.
 For example (and this is not really a good comparison when it comes
to birds!) - I currently live in an area that has a very healthy deer
and moose population. It is not uncommon to see moose and deer in my
yard throughout the spring, summer and fall. But, depending on local
snow depth in the winter, they either stay put here or move one
hillside over. A visitor to the area "this year" could easily form the
impression that increasing development or some other ecological threat
has pushed the larger wildlife out of the area. That would be entirely
 I have tried to do some more searching about environmental strain
facing the Bahamas (and Abacos), including any news of diminished fish
catches which might have an effect on local seabirds, but again, I
have not found anything alarming. I have also wondered if recent
hurricane activity from the past two years has had any effect on the
seabird population.
 Anyway, I would again caution you not to make a quick judgement based
on one trip. In the absence of a drastic oil spill, sudden disease, or
a serious natural catastrophe that impacts a local wildlife population
on a severe and immediate basis, I think you need to look more at a
long-term trend. This is why I offered the first article in my initial
clarification which pointed out the absence of viable research on
local seabirds in the Bahamian Archipelago. Clearly, more studies need
to be done to determine if this absence of birds which you observed is
the beginnin of a long-term trend or simply part of a natural cylce
which is not clearly understood.

Clarification of Question by thmarty-ga on 23 Mar 2006 14:05 PST
To: umiat-ga 

Point well taken - however I do think that your example was, indeed,
not a good comparison when it comes to birds. For two weeks I
travelled the Cays by boat and there is no way I wouldn't have spotted
at least just a few birds. They could never have kept perfectly just
one, two, or more bays away, every last one of them perpetually
completely hidden from our sight (several people) throughout the
entire stay, if in fact there were some there. If I had just stayed in
one spot instead of exploring extensively by boat the whole time it
might be conceivable, I guess, but I think even staying in one place
on an island with a high viewing spot at least one of those birds
would have passed by within sight. I could be wrong here if it ends up
that the birds all congregate in one small confined remote area for a
few weeks every spring hidden from everyone, normally, but I would
really need to be well convinced about that one. All that really
matters is whether or not this is normal for the Abacos or if it's a
new development. Also the telephone report pafalafa-ga forwarded needs
to be proven unimportant for some good reason before it is discounted
completely. I view that as a confirmation of what I experienced from
someone who takes note of such things, rather than a proof of
something or other at this point. This connection needs to be followed
up to see if it leads to more answers. That was pro-active information
gathering and when there are no studies to refer to for an easy
conclusion, that is the only way one could proceed here.

Request for Question Clarification by umiat-ga on 23 Mar 2006 14:38 PST
Please don't think that I am trying to discount your observations. My
sincere apologies if you misread my clarification. I was simply trying
to point out that in the absence of scientific studies, it is usually
the locals (and observant visitors such as yourself) who can notice
unusual trends. That is why I mentioned contacting some local
fishermen or fishing guides to see if they have noticed an unusual
absence of seabirds over the course of the past few years.
Undoubtedly, you have an obvious and viable concern. I did write an
email to the Bahama National Trust, which has a deep interest in the
bird populations in the islands, to ask them about your observations
and to find out if they could offer any insight. I have not heard
anything yet and will let you know if I do. But, I am the first to
admit that I simply do not have an answer for you! Again - my
apologies if you misread my intent!

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 23 Mar 2006 14:50 PST
Hello again.

This is getting to be quite a dialogue/trialogue eh?

One of my contacts in the Abacos -- an organization called Friends of
the Environment -- sent me a copy of the "Bahamas Bird Report Winter
2006", which covers recent bird counts and bird news in the area.

The report -- dated February 2006 -- does not make note of anything
unusual regarding seabirds.

However, it does note this:

"Eighteen dead birds (14 flamingos, 3 Roseate Spoonbills, and a
cormorant) were found on Great Inagua 26 and 27 Feb. There was
speculation that the birds died from avian flu, and articles in the
international press led to cancellation of some tourist reservations
in the Bahamas. The birds were determined to have died from other
causes. This incident reflects the high level of concern over avian
flu and the care one must exercise when mentioning dead birds..."

A related newspaper article can be seen here:
Bahamas doubts birds died of lethal flu
March 3, 2006 

NOTE that I am not suggesting that there's been a massive die-off of
sea birds in the area -- such an event would be obvious, and would
have raised global alarm.

I mentioned earlier that I am an ecologist, and my actual field is
marine ecology.  There has been a problem in the Bahamas and in many
Caribbean islands in the past decade or so with coral reef die-off.

I wonder if the problem has reached some sort of tipping point where,
as you suggested, a change in the availability of fish as food has
altered the patterns and habits of seabirds in the area.

It's hard to say, and I'm just speculating.  But it could well be that
something's going on that is not quite right.  I'm still hoping to
learn more from the folks in the area that I reached out to, but I
must tell you, that sometimes these contacts bear fruit, and sometimes

Again, let us know what sort of additional information would best suit
you at this point.


Request for Question Clarification by umiat-ga on 23 Mar 2006 15:20 PST
Rather than muck up the waters any further, I will refrain from any
more postings unless I find something of value.

However I wanted to leave you with one resource I found when
researching your question. At the very least, it will keep you
up-to-date with marine/fishing issues in various parts of the world.

The Underwater Times 

Some interesting news came up when I searched for "Bahamas seabirds"
and "fishing Bahamas" - though again, nothing that would provide an
explanation for circumstances in Abacos. You might want to take a
look, however.

Searching for "coral reefs bahamas" found this:

"Scientists look to the Bahamas as a model for coral reef
conservation." Feb 20, 2006


Wishing you the best and hoping you find the answers and resolution
you are seeking.



Request for Question Clarification by umiat-ga on 23 Mar 2006 18:33 PST
Hello, thmarty!

Your question has been on my mind all day! I finally gave in and made
a personal phone call to Carolyn Wardle, the Bahamas board
representative to the Society for the Conservation and Study of
Caribbean Birds.

As stated on her website: "Carolyn Wardle has lived in the Bahamas
since 1964 and has been seriously birding for the last 10 years. She
is one of the first Bahamas Ministry of Tourism certified Birding Tour
Guides and offers a range of bird watching tours in Nassau and the
Family Islands of the Bahamas.

"Since 1993, Carolyn has coordinated the Bahamas National Trust's
Ornithology Group, by organizing monthly field trips on New Providence
and multi-day trips to other islands. Members participate in several
Christmas Bird Counts each year. She is also a director of the Society
for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB)."


I related your observations to her and your concern that there might
be an underlying environmental threat to the area around Abacos that
is affecting the seabird population. I told her that you had both
visited and/or boated around Abacos, Channel Cay, Marsh Harbor, and
Hopetown and had also gone on some deepwater fishing excursions and
had seen no seabirds at all.

Her response was that at this time of year, seabirds are "thousand of
miles off to sea." Their nesting season is from May to August, and
those that do not nest on the larger islands have colonies on isolated
rock outcroppings that are virtually uninhabited the rest of the year.
Even during the nesting season, she said you need to get quite close
to the colonies to see an abundance of birds. She mentioned that tuna
fishermen, especially, will often follow flocks of seabirds to find
fish, but again, you will not observe large flocks of such birds near
Abacos until later in the summer.

Concerning environmental impact on the nesting colonies, Ms. Wardle
mentioned that there are many individuals who have purchased entire
islands, coming and going via boat or helicopter and that certain
seabird colonies have been negatively impacted. She stated that this
type of development, whether on a large or a small scale, is occurring
throughout the Bahamas and the impact is not unlike that which is
happening in similar ocean communities in the United States and
elsewhere. While environmental care and protection for land and
seabird habitat is definitely an ongoing concern, she has not observed
anything out of the ordinary this year concerning local land or
seabird populations. Again, she stated that most seabirds will remain
quite scarce until the nesting season which occurs from May - August.

Out of respect for her privacy, I asked her if she would mind if I
relayed details of our conversation to you and she gave me the
go-ahead. I also told her I would provide you with her name and
website so you could contact her directly and talk to her at greater

Since I was calling long-distance and it was quite late at night for
her, I did not want to keep her on the phone. Perhaps you can speak to
her at greater length during a more reasonable time of day and pick
her brain a bit more if you have further questions.

Carolyn Wardle 
Phone: (242) 362 1574 - Fax: (242) 362 2044


It might also ease your mind a bit to know that the number of bird
deaths originally cited in the 2006 Birding Report has been reduced to

"An unexplained spate of bird deaths in the Bahamas involved only five
birds, not the 21 initially reported, reducing the likelihood of an
outbreak of deadly bird flu virus, the Bahamian government said on

"Preliminary field reports on the investigation of unexplained death
of birds on the island of Inagua in the Southern Bahamas were
exaggerated," the statement said. Initial reports indicated 15 of
Inagua's famous flamingos, five roseate spoonbills and one cormorant
were found dead on the island.

"But agriculture officials said only five birds had died."


I hope this helps to shed some light on the overall situation.

Sincerley - umiat

Clarification of Question by thmarty-ga on 24 Mar 2006 20:22 PST
I haven't had a chance to look at all this until now - will respond
asap - Bahamians are very nationalistic (not a bad thing usually) and
don't like to get involved in talk of negatives (we only met one well,
so I should not generalize, however have heard that others notice the
same thing), and the only other locals we dealt with were real estate
agents and that's a dead end (unless I could slip truth serum into
their coffee somehow) - maybe will need to return there

thank you both

Request for Question Clarification by umiat-ga on 26 Mar 2006 07:59 PST
Hello again, thmarty!
 I am a bit perplexed concerning what you desire as an answer to your
original question at this point.
 I initially presented you with the results of my research into
observation accounts of seabirds and potential threats involving
seabird populations in Abacos and the Bahamas, which did not turn up
anything of significance. I then continued to research general
environmental threats concerning the Abacos, specifically, and the
Bahamas, in general, which again, did not reveal anything alarming.
While there is no doubt that environmental threats are facing fish,
bird and animal populations throughout the world due to an increase in
human impact, I did not uncover any threats of great magnitude which
would rule out the Abacos as a potential place for you to relocate.
 Since you still appeared to be dissatisfied and indicated that you
wanted more first-hand knowledge concerning seabirds in the Abacos, I
went so far as to make a long-distance phone call to an experienced
birder and long-term resident of the Bahamas for her insights into why
the seabirds were virtually "invisible" during the time of your visit.
I believe I presented a good overview of your concerns to her and she
responded with a professional and objective answer as to why the
islands seemed absent of seabirds during your visit - primarily due to
the fact that they are normally not around the islands until breeding
season in the late spring through the end of the summer. While she did
indicate that some seabird colonies have been wiped out on small
islands which have been impacted by private homes, she also stated
that many of the breeding rocks are extremely isolated and can still
expect healthy seabird populations. I made sure to provide you with
Ms. Wardle's contact infromation so that you could feel satisfied she
was a "real" person, and so that you could converse with her further
if necessary - or even substantiate my phone call if you had doubts.
 Your original question stated - "I am thinking of moving there but
first want to know if this almost complete absence of seabirds is
normal for the time of year or if it is not normal and is caused by
some sort of ecological problem that is developing there." I believe
my phone call to Ms. Wardle, along with the other research I 
presented, provides the most satisfactory answer that can be had at
this point.
 However, your primary response, after reading the account of my phone
call, was that "Bahamians are very nationalistic (not a bad thing
usually) and don't like to get involved in talk of negatives." I feel
obligated to stress, in Ms. Wardle's defense, that she appeared very
professional and objective in her conversation with me, and did not
give off the impression that she was unwilling to talk of "negatives"
concerning the Bahamas. Rather - she provided a solid reason
concerning the seeming lack of seabirds around Abacos during the time
you visited - simply, that they are generally not observed until the
breeding months. I suppose that a more obvious reason for alarm might
be if a substantial number of seabirds do not return to breed in the
Abacos area during the summer months both this year and the years
following. But unless such a phenomenom occurs, I am willing to accept
Ms. Wardles professional word, coupled with the absence of alarming
data in my own research, that the absence of seabirds around Abacos is
quite normal for the winter months.
 Since you have not been charged anything but the 50-cent listing fee
for this question, and GA researchers do not get paid for their time
unless, and until, they post an answer in the "answer box", I am
wondering what further information you would need to satisfy your
original question concerning whether the absence of seabirds around
Abacos is normal for the time of year that you visited.


Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 28 Mar 2006 17:41 PST

Hello again.  

Just wondering if you've had the chance to look things over...we've
certainly provided a lot for you to chew on, I would think.

I haven't heard back from the other folks I've contacted, and if
experience is any guide, I probably won't hear from them until they
clean out their inboxes in a month or so...long after your question
either expires or is answered.

The one fellow I did hear from, who made the 'worrisome' remark, was a
Dr. Bracey on Treasure Cay in the Abacos.  Dr. B. is a well-known and
well-regarded birder in the area, and was referred by the Friends of
the Environment as one of the best people to contact.

The Friends site, by the way, is here:

and their contact information is towards the bottom of the page.

If you're interested in contacting Cr. Bracey directly, I could ask if
it would be OK with him to post his email address here.

Let us know your druthers at this point,


Subject: Re: Absence of seabirds in the Abacos
Answered By: umiat-ga on 29 Mar 2006 00:18 PST
Hello, thmarty!

 We have gone round and round, but at this point, I believe I have
gleaned enough information to answer your original question, which
was, essentially, whether the scarcity of seabirds during your visit
to Abacos and the surrounding area in early March was the beginning of
an abnormal trend or a normal, seasonal occurrence.

 I already posted the details of the phone conversation I had with
Carolyn Wardle on March 23rd in a clarification above, in which she
stated that an abundance of seabirds will not be visible around Abacos
until the main nesting season, which runs from May to August. (Please
refer to my overview of our conversation)

 However, since an earlier reply to an email sent by my colleague to
Dr. Woody Bracey seemed to portray a certain sense of alarm, I wanted
to contact Dr. Bracey myself to inquire whether he could add any
additional insight to the information I gathered from Carolyn Wardle.
If you remember, Dr. Bracey is the author of an article I highlighted
in my initial clarification on March 22nd:


 I contacted Dr. Bracey by email today and received a reply this
evening, which provides the additional reassurance I had hoped for -
that seabirds have been seen recently in the Abacos area. Since this
was a private communication through a personal email address, I have
included only a portion of my email and his reply relating to
seabirds, which follows:

Question (March 28, 2006):

"...The individual who asked the question is quite worried that the
lack of seabirds on a 2-week visit in early March might point to an
underlying environmental threat. In the course of my research, as well
as from the information I gleaned from Carolyn Wardle, I have found no
alarming threats. However, I do not live on Abacos and am simply
relying on first-hand accounts as well as research. I have told the
customer that "if" seabirds do not appear this breeding season, and
such a potential trend were to continue, then this might be a reason
for alarm. However, I have found nothing of note thus far from
research or personal conversation.
 Would you be willing to enlighten me further on this subject? Is this
season a very unusual circumstance? Is it unusual that this individual
would not have noticed any birds, or are they usually quite rare until
the nesting season later in the Spring?....

Reply from Dr. Bracey (March 28, 2006) :

"... This weekend I saw many in Treasure Cay and at sandy
Point-several Brown Pelicans, 1 Frigatebird, 2 Ring-billed Gulls, Many
Laughing Gulls, Royal Terns, DC Cormorants and plenty of wading and
shorebirds so my fears are allayed. I just hadn't been out to the
places I usually see these birds...."

(If you would like to contact Dr. Bracey directly, I will have to ask
his permission to post his email address in an additional
clarification. Otherwise, I will see if he has a public address
through which you can contact him.)


As I stated earlier, Ms. Wardle would be very happy to speak with you
directly to substantiate my conversation with her or to provide you
with additional information about seabird habits and migration
patterns around Abacos. Her contact details follow:

Carolyn Wardle 
Phone: (242) 362 1574 - Fax: (242) 362 2044


If you want some personal feedback regarding a potential move to
Abacos, you might also want to become a member of the Abacos Community
Message Board. You can read the posted messages as an observer as


Since you have also noted concerns about the environmental
sensitivities of both the Florida Keys and the Bahamas and the
potential impacts on fish and wildlife, you might want to initiate
some research on the following sites:

The Keys

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary - Marine Resource Protection 


Marine researchers deliver blueprint for rescuing America's troubled
coral reefs. BioMedicine, published March 17

The Threats to our Ocean Fisheries - South Florida Sports Fishing
(includes current fishing reports) 

The Bahamas

"Sinking under a gathering wave of ocean extinctions," by JULIET EILPERIN

The following article is on a site with numerous links to information
about the Bahamas:

"Ship Pollution Is Key Environmental Threat to Caribbean - Tourist
resorts use on average of five to ten times more water than similar
residential areas in the Caribbean."

"Paradise lost? Bahamas must act now to prevent environmental ruin,"

"Scientists look to the Bahamas as a model for coral reef
conservation." February 21, 2006

The Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission
website has some more links of interest:


 I believe I have provided you with assurances from two, experienced,
resident birders that the seeming absence of seabirds during your
2-week visit was not an indication of something more ominous. I do
understand your initial concerns, however. I trust this information
will help you to move a bit closer toward making an informed decision
about future relocation.

All the best!


Search Strategy

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