Behavioural ecology and demography of seabirds at Buldir Island, Alaska

Buldir Island (52º21'N 175º56'E), the most remote island in the Aleutians, is located in the middle of a 120 mile wide pass between the 'Rat' Islands and the Near Islands. With 21 breeding seabird species (including 12 auks), the island supports the most diverse seabird colony in the northern hemisphere. In collaboration with the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge of the US Fish and Wildlife Service we have been conducting seabird research on Buldir since 1990.

Some questions we are addressing:

1. What sources of selection are responsible for the diversity of visual and acoustic signals used by auklets (Alcidae, Aethia spp.) during the breeding season?

2. How are Least, Crested, Whiskered Auklet populations regulated?

3. Are auklet species in competition for breeding sites and food?

4. What are the patterns of auklet (Aethia spp.) movement and migration outside the breeding season (August-April)?

5. How best to monitor auklet populations?

6. What is the likely fate of auklet populations in a situation of rapidly changing climate and oceanography?

7. What are the anthropogenic threats to Aleutian seabird populations and what management actions could be taken to offset these?



^video of our principal study area at Buldir, Main Talus, during a period of high auklet activity (here)




Some notable Buldir-focused publications from our research group:

Jones, I. L., F. M. Hunter, S. S. Seneviratne, J. C. Williams and R. D. Montgomerie. 2023. Limited evidence that asymmetries of multiple Whiskered Auklet (Aethia pygmaea) feather ornaments could serve a display function. Ibis.



Jones, I.L., F. M. Hunter, S. S. Seneviratne, J. C. Williams and R. D. Montgomerie. 2022. Extensive variation in feather ornaments of Whiskered Auklets in the Aleutian Islands reflects age, sex, condition, and geography. Ornithology 139: 1-17. (pdf here)


Bond, A.L. and I.L. Jones. 2020. Relationships between mercury burden, sex, and sexually selected feather ornaments in Crested Auklet (Aethia cristatella). Environmental Science and Pollution Research (link)


Schacter, C. and I.L. Jones. 2018. Confirmed year-round residence and land roosting of Whiskered Auklets (Aethia pygmaea) at Buldir Island, Alaska. Auk 135:706-715. (pdf here)


Schacter, C. and I.L. Jones. 2017. Effects of geolocation tracking devices on behavior, reproductive success and return rate of Aethia auklets: an evaluation of tag mass guidelines. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 129(3): 459-468. (pdf here)


Robinson, J. and I.L. Jones. 2014. An experimental study of the effects of a tarsus-mounted tracking device on the behaviour of a small pursuit-diving seabird. Behaviour 151 (12-13): 1799-1826. DOI:10.1163/1568539X-00003217 (pdf here)


Buxton, R., Major, H.L. Jones I.L. and J.C. Williams. 2013. Examining patterns in nocturnal seabird activity and recovery across the western Aleutian Islands, Alaska, using automated acoustic recording. Auk 130(2): 331-341. (pdf here)


Bond, A.L., Jones, I.L., Sydeman, W.J., Major H.L., Minobe, S., Williams, J.C. and G.V. Byrd. 2011. Reproductive success of planktivorous seabirds in the North Pacific is related to ocean climate on decadal scales. Marine Ecology Progress Series 424: 205-218. (pdf here)


Seneviratne, S.S., and I.L. Jones. 2010. Origin and maintenance of mechanosensory feather ornaments. Animal Behaviour. 79: 637-644. (pdf here)


Seneviratne, S.S. and I.L. Jones. 2008. Sensory function for elaborate facial ornamentation in a crevice-dwelling seabird. Behavioural Ecology 19(4):784-790. (pdf here)


Jones, I.L., F.M. Hunter, Robertson, G.J., Williams, J.C. and G.V. Byrd. 2007. Covariation among demographic and climate parameters in Whiskered Auklets (Aethia pygmaea). Journal of Avian Biology 38(4): 450-461. (pdf here)


Jones, I.L., Hagelin, J.C., Major, H.L. and L.E.L. Rasmussen. 2004. An experimental field study of the function of Crested Auklet Aethia cristatella feather odor. Condor 106: 71-78. (pdf here)


Jones, I.L., Hunter, F.M., Robertson, G.J. and G. Fraser. 2004. Natural variation in the sexually selected feather ornaments of crested auklets (Aethia cristatella) does not predict future survival. Behavioural Ecology 15: 332-337. (pdf here)


Fraser, G.S., Jones, I.L., Hunter, F.M. and L. Cowen. 2004. Mate switching patterns in Crested Auklets (Aethia cristatella): The role of breeding success and ornamentation. Bird Behaviour 16: 1-6. (pdf here)


Hagelin, J.C., Jones, I.L, and L.E.L. Rasmussen. 2003. A tangerine scented social odour in a monogamous seabird. Proceedings of the Royal Society (London) B 03PB0159.5 (pdf here)


Fraser, G.S., I.L. Jones, F.M. Hunter 2002. Male-female differences in parental care in monogamous Crested Auklets (Aethia cristatella). Condor 104: 413-423. (pdf here)


Hunter, F.M., I.L. Jones, J. Williams and G.V. Byrd. 2002. Breeding biology of the Whiskered Auklet at Buldir Island, Alaska. Auk 119(4): 1036-1051 (pdf here)


Jones, I.L., Hunter, F.M., and Fraser, G. 2000. Patterns of variation in ornaments of Crested Auklets (Aethia cristatella). Journal of Avian Biology 31: 119-127. (pdf here)


Jones, I.L. and F.M. Hunter. 1999. Experimental evidence for mutual inter- and intra-sexual selection favouring a crested auklet ornament. Animal Behaviour 57: 521-528. (pdf here)


Fraser, G., Jones, I.L., Williams, J.C., Hunter, F.M., Scharf, L. and G.V. Byrd. 1999. Breeding biology of Crested Auklets at Buldir and Kasatochi Islands, Alaska. Auk 116: 690-701. (pdf here)


Jones, I.L. 1993. Sexual differences in bill shape and external measurements of the Crested Auklet. Wilson Bulletin 105: 525-529. (pdf here)


Jones, I.L. and F.M. Hunter. 1993. Experimental evidence for mutual sexual selection in a monogamous seabird. Nature 362: 238-239. (pdf here)

more research publications listed here









Buldir Island user's manual (here)


2014 Aleutian Islands mega eathquake (massive rockfalls at Buldir) (here)