Environmental and phylogenetic drivers of European storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) foraging behaviour from two colonies in Ireland

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Wilkinson, Darren
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University College Cork
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Seabird populations are globally in decline. In order to successfully devise and implement conservation protocols, an understanding of their at-sea distribution is required. Miniature GPS devices were used to investigate the foraging movements of European storm petrels (Hydrobates pelagicus) breeding on two islands along the west coast of Ireland. In this study storm petrels appeared to perform a combination of long and short foraging trips. The mean foraging trip duration, total distance travelled and foraging range of the tagged storm petrels that performed long foraging trips were 53 hours, 749 km, and 226 km, respectively. On short trips the mean values were 23 hours, 287 km, and 114 km while the mean trip metrics for all foraging trips combined were 38 hours, 518 km, and 170 km, respectively. A model was developed to investigate the energetics associated with performing foraging trips of long and short durations. The results suggest that storm petrels may be operating at an energy deficit when performing short foraging trips and consequently may use long-distance trips to replenish their energy reserves. On long foraging trips, storm petrels were recorded foraging at the continental shelf edge, but foraging by the coast was also evident. As a predictor of marine productivity, chlorophyll-a concentration was modelled with the GPS tracking data, and the transition to foraging behaviour was positively correlated with high chlorophyll-a for one of the colonies. Comparative analyses showed that phylogenetic relatedness is a key component influencing the foraging duration, distance, and range of procellariiform seabirds. These analyses also indicated that the storm petrel’s foraging trips conform to the general patterns observed for a procellariiform species of its size during the chick-rearing phase of the breeding season, but that the storm petrel performs foraging trips that are shorter in duration, distance and range than would be expected during incubation. This study adds to the limited knowledge of the European storm petrel’s foraging movements during the breeding season and provides insight into the factors influencing its foraging distribution.
Hydrobates pelagicus , Seabird , Foraging , Phylogenetic drivers , Environmental drivers , European storm petrel
Wilkinson, D. 2021. Environmental and phylogenetic drivers of European storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) foraging behaviour from two colonies in Ireland. MRes Thesis, University College Cork.