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Resilient birds find new habitat after volcanic eruption

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What would you do if a volcanic eruption blew up your home? It’s not just a question for residents of the island of Hawaii watching Kilauea erupt. It’s a situation some Aleutian birds faced a decade ago when crested auklets (Aethia cristatella) and least auklets (Aethia pusilla) returned to their nesting sites after the 2008 eruption of the Kasatochi volcano off Alaska’s southwest coast and found them buried. “The birds tend to be very site specific, so they will return every year to the same area, the same island, the same colony,” said Gary Drew, a research wildlife biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. “They have very specific habitat requirements.” The auklets are “crevice nesters,” Drew said. They nest in cracks of talus or rock piles, but after the eruption, the crevices were gone. “All of that was buried under approximately 10 to 20 meters of ash.” Drew led a study published recently in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, looking at how the birds fared after the eruption and where they found new habitat. The auklets faced a devastated nesting habitat, he found, but they turned out to be fairly adaptable. Shortly after the eruption, researchers arriving by helicopter found the [...]

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