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Inter- and intra-year variation in foraging areas of breeding kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla)

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Author(s)

G. S. Robertson, M. Bolton, W. J. Grecian, P. Monaghan

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Abstract

While seabird conservation efforts have largely focused on protection from threats at the colony (e.g. reducing disturbance and predation), attention is increasingly being given to implementing protection measures for foraging areas at sea. For this to be effective, important foraging areas must be identified. Although numerous studies have examined seabird foraging behaviour, information is still lacking on the variability in area utilisation within and among breeding seasons. GPS devices were attached to adult black-legged kittiwakes breeding at an expanding North Sea colony (55°20′N, 1°32′W) during both incubation and chick-rearing in 2012 and during chick-rearing in 2011, to determine whether foraging areas remained consistent and to identify the oceanographic characteristics of areas used for foraging. The type and size of prey items consumed at different stages of the breeding cycle was also examined. During incubation (April-May 2012), kittiwakes foraged substantially further from the colony and fed on larger sandeels than when feeding chicks, and there was significant inter-annual variation in foraging areas used during the chick-rearing period (June-July 2011 and 2012). Foraging areas were characterised by cooler sea surface temperatures and areas of high chlorophyll a concentration, although association with specific oceanographic features changed within the breeding season and between years. These results emphasise the importance of considering how foraging areas and reliance on specific oceanographic conditions change over time when seeking to identify important marine areas for seabirds.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1973-1986
Number of pages14
JournalMarine Biology
Volume161
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014

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