GPS-tracking and colony observations reveal variation in offshore habitat use and foraging ecology of breeding Sandwich Terns

Ruben Fijn, Job de Jong, Wouter Courtens, Hilbran Verstraete, Eric Stienen, Martin Poot

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Abstract

Breeding success of seabirds critically depends on their foraging success offshore.However, studies combining atsea tracking and visual provisioning observations are scarce, especially for smaller species of seabirds. This study
is the first in which breeding Sandwich Terns were tracked with GPS-loggers to collect detailed data on foraging habitat use in four breeding seasons. Themaximumhomerange of individual Sandwich Terns comprised approximately
1900 km2 and the average foraging range was 27 km. Trip durations were on average 135 min with average trip lengths of 67 km. Actual foraging behaviour comprised 35% of the time budget of a foraging trip.
Substantial year-to-year variation was found in habitat use and trip variables, yet with the exception of 2012, home range size remained similar between years. Food availability, chick age and environmental conditions are proposed as the main driving factors between inter- and intra-annual variations in trip variables. Our multi-method approach also provided geo-referenced information on prey presence and we conclude that future combining of colony observations and GPS-loggers deployments can potentially provide a near complete insight
into the feeding ecology of breeding Sandwich Terns, including the behaviour of birds at sea.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Sea Research
Number of pages8
ISSN1385-1101
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20-Sep-2017

Thematic list

  • Coast and estuaries
  • Sea and coastal birds

EWI Biomedical sciences

  • B280-animal-ecology

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