AB 8:289-298 (2010)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/ab00243

Annual variation in the foraging behaviour of thick-billed murres in relation to upper-ocean thermal structure around St. George Island, Bering Sea

Nobuo Kokubun1,*, Akinori Takahashi1, Motohiro Ito2, Kei Matsumoto2, Alexander S. Kitaysky3, Yutaka Watanuki2

1National Institute of Polar Research, 10-3 Midori-cho, Tachikawa, Tokyo 190-8518, Japan
2Graduate School of Fisheries Sciences, Hokkaido University, 3-1-1 Minato-cho, Hakodate, Hokkaido 040-0821, Japan
3Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Irving 311, Fairbanks, Alaska 99503, USA

ABSTRACT: We studied the foraging behaviour of adult thick-billed murres Uria lomvia as they reared their chicks at St. George Island, Alaska, USA, relative to the thermal structure of the nearby ocean water column in the summers 2004, 2006, and 2007 using data recorders attached to the birds. The thermal structure of the upper ocean varied substantially among the years. Satellite-derived sea surface temperature (SST) and water temperature at depths >40 m were higher in 2004 than in 2006 and 2007 (9.1, 8.3 and 7.8°C for mean SST; 5.1, 4.4, and 2.2°C for median bottom temperature, respectively). We recorded a strong thermocline in 2004 and 2007, but not in 2006. Nonetheless, the thermocline was one of the important foraging habitats in all years. The foraging behaviour of thick-billed murres appeared to vary with annual variation in the intensity of the thermocline and water temperature at depth and evidently with associated vertical distribution of prey. Birds spent more time foraging in stratified waters and dived to around thermocline depth (and deeper in 2007) in 2004 and 2007. However, the birds used both stratified and mixed waters in 2006 and were less likely to dive to thermocline depth. Main prey items delivered to chicks varied among years. Sandlance (53% of observed items) and pollock (23%) predominated in 2004, compared with cephalopods (23%), flatfishes (17%) and pollock (15%) in 2006, and cephalopods (62%), pollock (16%) and sculpins (9%) in 2007. 


KEY WORDS: Diving behaviour · Thermocline · Climate change · Ecological response · Seabirds · Bering Sea


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Cite this article as: Kokubun N, Takahashi A, Ito M, Matsumoto K, Kitaysky AS, Watanuki Y (2010) Annual variation in the foraging behaviour of thick-billed murres in relation to upper-ocean thermal structure around St. George Island, Bering Sea. Aquat Biol 8:289-298. https://doi.org/10.3354/ab00243

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