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Distribution patterns and population trends of breeding seabirds in the Aleutian Islands

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The 1800-km-long Aleutian Archipelago is a breeding area for more than 10 million seabirds of 26 species. We evaluated the distribution of breeding colonies of 24 common breeding species in relationship to ocean passes of two sizes, availability of nesting habitat and the distribution of introduced predatory mammals. Further, we evaluated population trends and reproductive rates to amplify information about distribution. We compared distributions and demographic parameters based on proposed differences in marine habitats in the eastern, central and western Aleutians. Samalga Pass did not appear to be a break point for breeding seabird distribution as is suggested for oceanographic characteristics and other species groups by papers in this volume. Factors affecting distribution varied with foraging and nesting strategies of various species groups. The three largest breeding aggregations of seabirds in the Aleutians (Buldir, Chagulak and Kiska) all have relatively high species diversity and are located next to large passes. However, when other predictors were considered, proximity to medium or large passes was important mainly for surface-feeding piscivores. The extent of nesting habitat apparently does not limit the distribution of surface- or burrow-nesting species (including planktivores and piscivores). Instead, the distribution of these species probably has been shaped by introduced mammals. Nesting habitat for ledge- and crevice-nesting species is more limited than for surface and burrow nesters but is still fairly widespread. Ledge- and crevice-nesting species are less susceptible to fox predation than are surface and burrow nesters. These species may have been reduced by predation but were not extirpated.
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Keywords: Alaska; Aleutian Islands; invasive species; seabird distribution; seabird foraging patterns; seabird nesting habitat; seabird population trends

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, 95 Sterling Hwy, Homer, AK 99603, USA 2: Department of Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St Johns, NL, Canada A1B 3X9

Publication date: 2005-11-01

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