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Unconventional ventral attachment of time-depth recorders as a new method for investigating time budget and diving behaviour of seabirds
Tremblay, Y., Cherel, Y., Oremus, M., Tveraa, T., & Chastel, O. (2003) J. Experimental Biology 206:1929-1940
We tested the use of commercially available electronic time-depth recorders (TDRs) to quantify activities and thus total time budgets of seabirds. This new method involved first fitting TDRs onto the birds bellies (not on their backs), and, secondly, analysing continuous recordings of temperature, light and pressure to differentiate activities on land and at sea. The birds studied were 12 Common Guillemots Uria aalge rearing chicks at Hornøya, in northern Norway. The method successfully recorded five different activities: at the colony, flying, diving, and resting or active at the sea surface. Overall, Common Guillemots spent 68% of their time at the colony and 32% at sea. While at sea, the birds spent the majority (77%) of their time at the surface, during which they were active 64% of the time, and rested only 13%. Birds engaged in the costly behaviours of flying and diving for shorter times (11% and 12% of their time at sea, respectively). The method allowed us to differentiate between two types of trips to the sea based on the presence (foraging trips: 77% of the total number of trips) or absence (non-foraging trips: 23%) of dives. On average, foraging trips lasted 3.2h, but most trips were shorter (<1h), during which the mean estimated travel distance from the colony was11km. Diving occurred in bouts of 7.7+-6.6 dives (mean +- sd). The mean maximum dive depth was 10.2+-7.6m (deepest dive 37m), and the mean dive duration and post-dive intervals, were 38.7+-21.3 s (longest dive: 119s) and 20+-12s respectively. Direct and indirect evidence suggests that Common Guillemots had no difficulty in finding food during the study period, and that the TDRs had minimal effects on the bird’s behaviour and physiology. The method is easy to use in the field and is applicable to many other flying seabird species; it is therefore an efficient way of collecting information on time budgets and diving behaviour in the context of various ecological and monitoring studies.

Keywords: alcid, Barents Sea, common guillemot, Uria aalge, foraging behaviour


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