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Inter-annual changes in diet and foraging trip lengths in a small pelagic seabird, the thin-billed prion Pachyptila belcheri
Quillfeldt, P.; Michalik, A.; Veit-Köhler, G.; Strange, I.J.; Masello, J.F. (2010). Inter-annual changes in diet and foraging trip lengths in a small pelagic seabird, the thin-billed prion Pachyptila belcheri. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 157(9): 2043-2050.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162; e-ISSN 1432-1793, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Quillfeldt, P.
  • Michalik, A.
  • Veit-Köhler, G., more
  • Strange, I.J.
  • Masello, J.F.

    Central place foragers are constrained in their foraging distribution by the necessity to return to their nest site at regular intervals. In many petrels that feed on patchily distributed prey from the sea surface over large foraging areas, alternating long and short foraging trips are used to balance the demands of the chick with the requirements of maintaining adult body condition. When the local conditions are favourable for prey density and quality, adults should be able to reduce the number of long foraging trips. We studied the flexibility in foraging trip lengths of a small pelagic petrel, the thin-billed prion Pachyptila belcheri, over three breeding seasons with increasingly favourable, cold-water conditions. During a warm-water influx in February 2006, chicks were fed less frequently and adults carried out foraging trips of up to 8 days. When conditions became more favourable with colder water temperatures in 2007 and 2008, thin-billed prions decreased trip lengths, more often attended their chick every day, and long foraging trips of six to eight days were not registered during 2008. Chick growth rates mirrored this, as chicks grew poorly during 2006, intermediate during 2007 and best during 2008. Thin-billed prions preyed mainly on squid during incubation and mainly on amphipods and euphausiids during chick-rearing. In the poorest season only, the diet was substantially supplemented with very small copepods. Together, the present results indicate that during warm-water conditions, thin-billed prions had difficulties in finding sufficient squid, amphipods or euphausiids and were forced to switch to lower trophic level prey, which they had to search for over large ocean areas.

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