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Foraging strategy of little auks under divergent conditions on feeding grounds

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A dual foraging strategy (long versus short trips) has been described for some species of seabirds, such as petrels, albatrosses (Procellariiformes) and penguins (Sphenisciphormes). Such a strategy has recently been reported for little auks (Alle alle) from the central coast of west Spitsbergen, Svalbard. This has been explained as a response to poor trophic conditions close to the breeding colony, and better conditions further away (150 km). In the present study, we investigated the foraging strategy of little auks in Hornsund, southern Spitsbergen, during two seasons with contrasting oceanographic conditions. During 2004, foraging conditions for little auks were good: cold Arctic waters rich in profitable high-energy food were dominant in their feeding grounds. Conversely, during 2006 there was a great influx of warm Atlantic water in the feeding area, inducing poor foraging conditions. In both seasons we examined the pattern of foraging trip lengths automatically with a video camera (both adults from four nests in each year), and by direct non-stop observation of 20–54 individually marked birds. Our results showed that the dual strategy and the ratio of short and long trips were consistent, regardless of the conditions in the feeding grounds. This suggests that the strategy is inherent and may be crucial for the self-maintenance of adults.

Keywords: Alle alle; Spitsbergen; dual foraging strategy; foraging trip duration; little auk

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Vertebrate Ecology and Zoology, University of Gdańsk, al. Legionów 9, PL-90-441 Gdańsk, Poland 2: Department of Biology, Pomona College, 175 West Sixth Street, Claremont, CA 91711, USA 3: Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences, ul. Powstańców Warszawy 55, PL-81-712 Sopot, Poland

Publication date: 2010-04-01

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