Home for the Seaside Heermann's Gulls

The city of Seaside, California is home to the only known nesting colony of Heermann’s Gulls in the United States. The gulls have nested in Seaside since at least 1999, but over the years they have lost many nesting sites due to several unfortunate events. Please help Monterey Audubon build a floating nesting island in Roberts Lake in Seaside to give these birds a permanent home. Monterey Audubon has generously offered to match donations up to $25,000, so we need your help to make this project a success! 
The Heermann’s Gull 

The Heermann’s Gull is a beautiful migratory species. They are are long-lived, intelligent, and highly social seabirds who form lifelong pair bonds and cooperatively raise their chicks. The entire world population of Heermann’s Gulls was once thought to breed on just a few islands in the Gulf of California - 95% nest on a tiny island called Isla Rasa. Because nearly all Heermann's Gulls nest in a single location, they are uniquely vulnerable to human interference. In recent years, overfishing, introduced predators, soaring ocean surface temperatures, and rising sea levels have combined to pose a threat to the very survival of the species. Due to these factors, Heermann’s Gulls experienced total nesting failure on Isla Rasa 4 of the last 6 years.

The Seaside Heermann’s Gull Colony 

For the past 20 years, the city of Seaside has been home to a little-known secret: the first and only breeding colony of Heermann’s Gulls outside of the Gulf of California. In 1999, three pairs of Heermann’s Gulls nested on an artificial island in Roberts Lake, and fledged eight chicks! This was the first known successful nesting attempt outside the Gulf of California. 

Since then, the colony has struggled to survive through many setbacks. Their artificial island, which was made of fill, eroded and sank completely in 2007. From 2013 to 2016, they nested atop the roof of a warehouse near Roberts Lake, but in 2017, the building owner illegally erected netting over the gulls’ nests, causing their nests to fail. In 2018, several birds nested on the roof of the Seaside McDonald’s, but just as the chicks were hatching, a car slammed into the restaurant and it burned to the ground. Another group nested on a nearby low-slung rooftop, but a predator killed all their chicks. Finally, two pairs nested on the roof of the Holiday Inn Express, where they raised six healthy chicks. However, Heermann’s Gulls are not cliff nesters, and don’t know how to fledge from heights safely. Two of them glided off the roof into the parking lot before they could take off again, where they were vulnerable to predators and cars. 
A Permanent Floating Home for the Seaside Colony 

Monterey Audubon has launched an ambitious project to restore a nesting place for the Heermann’s Gulls in Roberts Lake, one that will last for decades and provide them a safe place to nest, free from human disturbance and terrestrial predators. The Seaside City Council voted unanimously to grant us a Coastal Administrative Permit which will allow us to construct, install, and maintain an 18 x 20-foot floating nesting platform for the Heermann’s Gulls in the same lake their pioneering ancestors first chose. We also have a positive relationship and agreement with the model boat club that also uses Roberts Lake to ensure that both the boaters and the gulls may enjoy the lake.  

Our floating island will be custom-made by Floating Islands West LLC, which has substantial experience creating floating seabird nesting habitats, including a very large artificial Caspian Tern nesting island on Dutchy Lake in Oregon. The island will be a modular design made from recycled plastics that is inherently buoyant, extremely durable, and easy to deploy and maintain between nesting seasons. Fencing around the periphery will keep geese off and not-yet-flighted chicks on, and we will place chick hides on the surface such that chicks may seek refuge from aerial threats. The substrate will be bare and gravelly, per the gulls’ preference. We will also use proven social attraction techniques to draw the gulls to the island, including Heermann’s Gull decoys and an audio playback system to broadcast Heermann’s Gull calls. The island will be firmly anchored in the lake, and monitoring of the birds will be done by cellular trail camera, from the shore of Roberts Lake, and via cautious drone surveillance. 

We need your help 

Please donate today to help us reach our target so we can deploy the floating island in time for the 2019 nesting season. Your donation will help fund the floating island, the social attraction equipment, and continuing maintenance of the island. Monterey Audubon is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, so your donation is tax deductible. With the support of donors like you, we will ensure that regardless of what happens at Isla Rasa, the Heermann’s Gull will have a safe place to nest in Seaside.

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    • $20 
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    • $100 
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Joanna Chin 
Seaside, CA
Monterey Peninsula Audubon Society 
Registered nonprofit
Donations are typically 100% tax deductible in the US.

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