Sunday, March 26, 2017

Foraging ecology and dive behaviour of Pitt Island shags (Stictocarbo featherstoni)

TitleForaging ecology and dive behaviour of Pitt Island shags (Stictocarbo featherstoni)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsBell, M
Type of ArticleFull Article
Keywordsdive depth, dive duration, foraging ecology, Pitt Island shag, Stictocarbo featherstoni

The foraging ecology of Pitt Island shag (Stictocarbo featherstoni) was studied using GPS archival and Time Depth Recorder devices deployed on incubating birds. Pitt Island shags foraged exclusively during daylight, with a tendency for males to forage mainly during mid-morning and late afternoon, and females in the early morning and around mid-day. Mean foraging distance from colonies was 5.2 km (range 0.4-18.2 km), with males (mean 9.7 km) foraging significantly further than females (3.7 km). Both sexes showed high foraging site fidelity. The depth of most (83%) dives > 5 m deep were similar to the depth of the preceding dive (within 30%), indicating that birds are almost exclusively benthic feeding with the small fluctuations in dive depth likely reflecting changes in seafloor topography. Mean dive depth was 6.6 m, with maximum depth 24.4 m, although 90% of all dives were shallower than 13 m deep. Mean dive duration was 22 s, with a maximum of 69 s, although over 90% of dives were shorter than 40 s. There was a positive relationship between dive duration and dive depth, where deeper dives had longer duration. Mean rest period was 19 s with a weak positive relationship between rest period and duration of the preceding dive. Mean percentage time underwater during each foraging trip was 50.1%, indicating relatively high foraging efficiency. Favoured foraging locations in shallow inshore waters is likely to be a response by birds selectively foraging in sheltered waters protected from oceanic swells. This may be a factor influencing population declines as it intensifies risk to birds as potential threats may be more concentrated in these areas.

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