Competition is thought to play a fundamental role in structuring avian communities, yet this has been difficult to quantify and demonstrate in marine ecosystems. We tested for fine-scale competition over foraging space between sympatric pursuit-diving seabirds, Marbled Murrelet (
Brachyramphus marmoratus (J.F. Gmelin, 1789)) and Common Murre (Uria aalge (Pontoppidan, 1763)). We simultaneous assessed the
effects of inter- and intra-specific competition among these predators, predicting that the larger Common Murres would out-compete the smaller Marbled Murrelets for foraging space. A theodolite was used to map the fine-scale (±2 m) distributions of birds on the water; distance
from shore measurements and nearest-neighbour spatial statistics quantified the spatial overlap and segregation between species. Species distributions differed with respect to distance from shore, but overlapped extensively within 1200 m of the shoreline. Nearest-neighbour statistics,
assessed with randomization tests, showed Marbled Murrelets foraging farther from Common Murres (mean distances 294 m) than from other Marbled Murrelets (95 m), but groups of Common Murres foraged with similar spacing among conspecifics (266 m) and competitors (186 m).
These results suggest avoidance of Common Murres by Marbled Murrelets (interspecific competition) but intraspecifc competition among Common Murres. Avoidance behaviour may minimize the impacts of aggression or competition, but by avoiding Common Murres, the Marbled Murrelets may also be reducing
their foraging opportunities.
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