Inter-Research > MEPS > v256 > p229-242  
Marine Ecology Progress Series

via Mailchimp

MEPS 256:229-242 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps256229

Distributional patterns of a marine bird and its prey: habitat selection based on prey and conspecific behaviour

Gail K. Davoren1,*, William A. Montevecchi1, John T. Anderson2

1Biopsychology Programme, Departments of Biology and Psychology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X9, Canada
2Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, St. John's, Newfoundland A1C 5X1, Canada

ABSTRACT: We examined distributional patterns of a pursuit-diving seabird, the common murre Uria aalge, and its fish prey, capelin Mallotus villosus, within the avian foraging range of the largest murre colony in eastern North America: Funk Island, Newfoundland. During chick-rearing, the foraging habitat was previously partitioned into: (1) a high-quality area, 45 km from the colony where energy-rich capelin schools were found, which were spatially and temporally persistent and (2) a low-quality area, 60 km from the colony where schools were composed of lower-energy capelin that were ephemeral. At the scale of the foraging range (meso-scale: 1 to 100 km), murres were highly clustered into 25% of the surveyed area, with fewer murres in the low-quality relative to the high-quality area. There were tighter associations among murre and capelin aggregations in the low-quality (1.2 ± 0.2 km) relative to the high-quality area (2.6 ± 0.4 km). This likely resulted from the divergent capelin behaviour and, thus, different foraging strategies used by murres to search for (e.g. memory vs local enhancement) and capture prey. At fine spatial scales (250 m2) within foraging areas, murres were found at lower densities (mode: 2 murres), revealing that interference competition among individuals may be important during prey capture. Modeling revealed that at >50 murres per 250 m in the high-quality area, a murre would have a >90% chance of increasing its foraging efficiency by switching to forage in the low-quality area. Overall, this scale-dependent aggregative behaviour of murres suggests that cooperative foraging among conspecifics may be important in locating prey at the scale of a foraging range, or murres may simply aggregate in areas of high prey abundance, but competitive interactions among conspecifics become important at the scale of prey capture.

KEY WORDS: Habitat selection · Scale · Predator-prey theory · Competition · Model · Ideal free distribution · Common murre · Capelin

Full text in pdf format