Texas American Oystercatcher Project

Purpose/Objectives

The objectives of this study were to 1) document the breeding parameters and movement patterns of the Western Gulf Coast American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) population, 2) identify threats that may limit breeding success of individuals residing in the western limits of the species range, and 3) determine strategies to mitigate the identified threats.

Study Area

Galveston Bay, Texas

Project Period

2012 – 2014

Description

The Texas American Oystercatcher project was a joint effort between the Environmental Institute of Houston and the Gulf Coast Gulf Observatory (GCBO). A portion of the project's funding came from a grant awarded by the National Fish and Wildlife Federation to GCBO. EIH graduate student Amanda Anderson conducted research alongside Dr. Susan Heath of GCBO, who has been studying American oystercatcher (AMOY) productivity along the Texas coast since 2010.

The first objective of the study was to determine productivity by assessing reproductive success. Research took place during two breeding seasons which occurs from February to July in Galveston Bay, Bastrop Bay, and Drum Bay. We conducted nest surveys and nest monitoring of AMOY breeding pairs and their young. Adults and chicks were trapped and banded with unique two-character, color-coded bands and metal USGS bands.

The second objective of the study was to determine whether laughing gull colonies within AMOY nesting territory are affecting reproductive success. Anderson conducted time activity budgets during the incubation and chick rearing periods in order to determine if the presence of laughing gulls affect adult behavior and nesting success. Furthermore, all other disturbance events like nest depredation or weather were documented in an effort to identify other threats to productivity.

The third objective of the study was to determine if site and breeding pair fidelity affect productivity and the fledgling success of breeding pairs. We also aimed to categorize nesting and feeding territories in order to further explain differences in reproductive success among breeding pairs. Monthly surveys during the non-breeding season were conducted from September to January to address this research question.

Publications and Presentations

Anderson, A., Heath, S., and Guillen, G. 2016. A time activity budget of American oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) breeding in Texas. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 128(3):656-663.

Anderson, A.N. 2014. The factors affecting productivity and parental behavior of American oystercatchers in Texas. University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston.

Anderson, A., Guillen, G., and Heath, S. 2014. A time activity budget for American oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) and the effect of laughing gulls on parental behavior. Meeting of the American Oystercatcher Working Group, Lake Jackson, TX. Presentation.

Anderson, A., Guillen, G., and Heath, S. 2014. A time activity budget for American oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) and the factors affecting parental behavior during the incubation and chick rearing periods. Gulf Estuarine Research Society 2014 Biennial Meeting, Port Aransas, TX. Presentation.

Anderson, A., Guillen, G., and Heath, S. 2014. The factors affecting nest and brood survival and chick body condition of American oystercatchers. Meeting of the American Oystercatcher Working Group, Lake Jackson, TX. Presentation.

Anderson, A. and Guillen, G. 2013. Measuring life history characteristics and effects of disturbance on the American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) on the upper Texas coast. Meeting of the American Oystercatcher Working Group, Wrightsville Beach, NC.

EIH in Action

 
Research assistant Amanda Anderson holds two banded American oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) prior to their release
Susan Heath, GCBO avian conservation biologist, sets a noose carpet while research assistant Amanda Anderson looks on
Susan Heath, GCBO avian conservation biologist, and Amanda Anderson, EIH research assistant, set up a whoosh net
George Guillen, EIH executive director, releases a banded American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus)
EIH research assistant Amanda Anderson with an American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus). Warning signs were placed on shell islands to warn people of nesting sites.
American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) chick
Amanda Anderson, EIH research assistant, holds an American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) chick
Adult and juvenile American oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus)

Project Sponsors

Related links

Oystercatcher Diaries (2014)

Contact
  • Environmental Institute of Houston

    Phone: 281-283-3950
    Email: eih@uhcl.edu

    North Office Annex
    2700 Bay Area Blvd, Box 540
    Houston, TX 77058-1002

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