Seabird Abstracts

Effects of prey abundance on the foraging behavior,

diving efficiency and time allocation of breeding guillemots (Uria aalge)

Monaghan P, Walton P, Wanless S, Uttley JD & Burns MD (1994) Ibis 136:214-222

The foraging behaviour of Guillemots Uria aalge at sea was compared between 2 years of radically different food abundance. Radio telemetry was used to determine foraging locations and diving patterns. In the poor compared with the good food year, foraging trips were much longer, the birds foraged more than six times further from their breeding sites, they spent over five times as much time diving when at sea and their estimated energy expenditure was twice as great. Time spent foraging in the poor food year was at the expense of time spent sitting at the colony. The duration of a foraging trip was a poor indicator of distance travelled but a good indicator of the amount of time spent diving. Mean dive durations, surface pause durations and interbout periods did not differ between years, but individuals made more than four times as many dives per diving bout in the poor food year. Surface pause lengths did not vary with water depth in either year. In the poor food year, birds made shorter surface pauses for a dive of a given duration than in the good food year, possibly accepting a lactic acid debt in order to maximize searching time, The duration of the interbout period was positively related to the number of dives in the previous bout, and dives tended to get shorter in long diving sequences, suggesting possible exhaustion effects. These data demonstrate that breeding Guillemots have the capacity to adjust their foraging behaviour and time budgets in response to changes in food abundance, but this flexibility was not sufficient to compensate fully for the very low food abundance experienced by birds in this study.


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