CIE Spotlight: Combined Use of GPS and Accelerometry Reveals Fine Scale Three-Dimensional Foraging Behaviour in the Short-Tailed Shearwater

Maud B., Lauren A. and John A.
Maud B., Lauren A. and John A.

Title: Combined Use of GPS and Accelerometry Reveals Fine Scale Three-Dimensional Foraging Behaviour in the Short-Tailed Shearwater

Authors: Maud Berlincourt, Lauren P. Angel, John P. Y. Arnould

Source: PLoS ONE 10(10), October 6, 2015

Brief summary of the paper: Determining the foraging behaviour of free-ranging marine animals is fundamental for assessing their habitat use and how they may respond to changes in the environment. However, despite recent advances in bio-logging technology, collecting information on both at-sea movement patterns and activity budgets still remains difficult in small pelagic seabird species due to the constraints of instrument size.

The short-tailed shearwater, the most abundant seabird species in Australia (ca 23 million individuals), is a highly pelagic procellariiform. Despite its ecological importance to the region, almost nothing is known about its at-sea behaviour, in particular, its foraging activity.

Using a combination of GPS and tri-axial accelerometer data-loggers, the fine scale three-dimensional foraging behaviour of 10 breeding individuals from two colonies was investigated.

Five at-sea behaviours were identified: (1) resting on water, (2) flapping flight, (3) gliding flight, (4) foraging (i.e., surface foraging and diving events), and (5) taking-off.

There were substantial intra- and inter- individual variations in activity patterns, with individuals spending on average 45.8% (range: 17.1–70.0%) of time at sea resting on water and 18.2% (range: 2.3–49.6%) foraging. Individuals made 76.4 ± 65.3 dives (range: 8–237) per foraging trip (mean duration 9.0 ± 1.9 s), with dives also recorded during night-time.

With the continued miniaturisation of recording devices, the use of combined data-loggers could provide us with further insights into the foraging behaviour of small procellariiforms, helping to better understand interactions with their prey.