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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 296:183-196 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps296183

Behavioural flexibility during year-round foraging in macaroni penguins

J. A. Green1,*, I. L. Boyd2, A. J. Woakes1, N. L. Warren3, P. J. Butler1

1School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
2Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, UK
3British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK

ABSTRACT: Penguins are major consumers in the marine environment. However, like many top predators, very little information exists on their foraging behaviour outside the breeding season. We investigated the foraging behaviour of the macaroni penguin Eudyptes chrysolophus continuously for 2 consecutive years, from the end of December 2001. This allowed us to investigate whether foraging behaviour varied between sexes, years or phases of the annual cycle. Male penguins tended to dive deeper and longer than female penguins, but at a lower frequency, probably as a result of their larger body size. There was little variation in foraging behaviour between the 2 years studied, although neither year included a notable period of low Antarctic krill abundance. Diving behaviour varied substantially within years and general linear models were used to investigate this variability. In summary, all penguins tended to dive deeper, longer and more efficiently during their winter migration than during the summer breeding season. The penguins dived predominantly during daylight hours at all times of the year, but appeared to be more constrained by daylight during the short winter days. Several diving variables including dive duration, dive rate and amount of time spent diving were significantly related to day length and these associations were stronger during winter than summer. The macaroni penguin shows flexibility in its foraging behaviour as it adapts to differing constraints and challenges during its annual cycle.

KEY WORDS: Behavioural plasticity · Penguin · Southern Ocean · Diving behaviour · Eudyptes chrysolophus

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