Programs reduce densities of birds preying on threatened marbled murrelets

Steller’s jay density declines in response to human education and policy enforcement in a protected area


Colorful, clever, and curious, Steller’s jays are remarkably successful inhabitants of Western conifer forests. These omnivorous birds quickly adapt to human presence and readily eat stray crumbs at campgrounds and other places where people recreate.

Unfortunately, the Steller’s jay’s success comes at a price for the marbled murrelet, a federally threatened seabird. Marbled murrelets nest in old-growth trees, including coast redwoods, and they typically only lay one egg per breeding season. Steller’s jays are predators of both murrelet eggs and chicks, and past research has shown that the incidence of predation goes up when jay populations are denser. Jay populations can become very dense in areas where they can easily access “people food,” like campgrounds and picnic areas.

Research funded by Save the Redwoods League suggests that programs designed to reduce jay’s access to these free handouts can be part of a strategy to help reduce jay populations in areas where marbled murrelets nest, giving these threatened birds a better chance at successful reproduction.

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