A report on the guano-producing birds of Peru (“Informe sobre Aves Guaneras”)

Vogt, William
Dufffy, David Cameron
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Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit
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(Modified from the original) Vogt studied the Guanay Cormorant (Phalacrocorax bougainvillii), Peruvian Booby (Sula variegata), and Peruvian Pelican (Pelecanus thagus) for almost three years (1938 - 1940). The nesting range of these species extends from 04035'S to 380S, covering an area of considerable geographical diversity. The climate is briefly described. The report contains details of the oceanography and marine biology of a part of the nesting range of the birds, and a rejection of the theory that a warm southward-flowing surface current causes major changes on climate and breeding season for guano birds. The histories of past abnormal years and their effects on the birds are reported. The average density of Guanay Cormorant nests is 313.9 ± 3.76 per 100 m2. The ecological efficiency of the islands and their microclimates are linked. The Guanay Cormorant is limited to nesting on the windy parts of the island, which are the coolest, as there is an inverse relation between wind and temperature. A detailed description of the social behavior of the Guanay Cormorant, including its feeding and nesting, is given. Nesting is concentrated in spring and summer. The breeding season keeps the adults on the island for four months every year. The average Guanay Cormorant clutch size is 3.13 ± 0.101 eggs and incubation lasts 27 days. Nesting in large colonies protects nests because fewer birds are at the edges in larger colonies. Various causes of mortality are described. The only significant predator of the Guanay Cormorant may be the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus). Food is probably the most important limiting factor for the birds. There is a correlation between the abundance of food for birds and the abundance of diatoms. Each Guanay Cormorant eats approximately 215 g/day of food and no more than 316 g/day. Annually, each Guanay Cormorant eats 78.4 to 115.4 kg/year of the Peruvian Anchoveta (Engraulis ringens) and produces approximately 15.8 kg of guano per year. The quantity of fish consumed by birds in the year prior to the guano harvest of 1940 was between 711,903 and 917,150 metric tons. Based on extensive data, this is much lower than previous estimates. Each ton of guano is the result of 4.95 - 7.3 tons of fish consumed, but the guano that the company removes from the islands is only a small proportion of the guano that the birds deposit at sea, where it may act as an important fertilizer for plankton. Preliminary studies suggest that anchoveta are migratory. I have rejected, because of a lack of supporting data, the theory that anchoveta are still present during food shortages, but at depths too great for them to be taken by birds. A preliminary study of 1,427 anchoveta indicated a marked reduction in the year-classes hatched in the spring and summer of 1939 and 1940, when the birds died of hunger. Anchoveta spawned in 1938 were the most abundant. The Peruvian Anchoveta appears similar in biology to the California Sardine (Sardinops sagax caerulea). The commercial anchoveta fishery should be carefully monitored as it represents one of the most serious potential threats to the guano industry. Various interactions of the birds and humans are discussed. I review the history of the guano birds, based on available data, from the pre-Columbian period to the present. The ecologies of the Peruvian Booby and Peruvian Pelican are discussed. Each species seems to occupy a distinct niche so that, within broad limits, the three do not compete with one another. Interactions or the synecology of plants and animals connected with the guano birds appear to be so complex that they require more thorough study. Various management methods are suggested that might allow an increase in the numbers of birds and the proportion of guano harvested. Various management methods are suggested that might allow an increase in the numbers of birds and the proportion of guano harvested.
Reports were scanned in black and white at a resolution of 600 dots per inch and were converted to text using Adobe Paper Capture Plug-in.
El Niño, Peruvian Anchoveta, Guanay Cormorant, Peruvian Booby, Peruvian Pelican, upwelling, bird ecology
Vogt, W. with translation and notes by D.C. Duffy. 2018. A report on the guano-producing birds of Peru. Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit Technical Report 197. University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Department of Botany. Honolulu, HI. 198 pages.
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