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

Abstract

Black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla, hereafter “kittiwake”) are small surface-feeding seabirds widely distributed in temperate and arctic regions in the northern Hemisphere (Harrison 1983). Historically, kittiwakes have bred in large numbers along the north-western edge of the north Sea (lloyd et al. 1991), but have recently become a species of conservation concern as their abundance and productivity in the north Sea have declined in the last 30 years (Harris and Wanless 1990, 1997; Wanless and Harris 1992; Upton et al. 2000; Mitchell et al. 2004; eaton et al. 2009). an important factor contributing to this decline is a reduction in food availability due to decreases in the abundance of principal forage fish such as lesser sandeel (Ammodytes marinus, hereafter “sandeel”) (Harris and Wanless 1990; rindorf et al. 2000; Daunt et al. 2002; Frederiksen et al. 2004, 2008). Kittiwakes are obligate surface-feeders restricted to obtaining food from the top few metres of the water column (Harris and Wanless 1990; Coulson 2011). Previous studies have identified surfacefeeding seabird species as being more severely affected by food shortages than diving species (Furness and ainley 1984; Furness and Tasker 2000). Kittiwakes are especially vulnerable to reductions in prey abundance as they have high foraging costs, restricted diving ability and limited ability to switch to different prey types (Furness and Tasker 2000). 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

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Robertson2014InterAI, title={Inter- and intra-year variation in foraging areas of breeding kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla)}, author={Gail S. Robertson and Mark Bolton and W James Grecian and Pat Monaghan}, year={2014} }