MEPS 496:233-247 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10650

Theme Section: Tracking fitness in marine vertebrates

Annual variation in the timing of breeding, pre‑breeding foraging areas and corticosterone levels in an Arctic population of black-legged kittiwakes

Aurélie Goutte1,*, Frédéric Angelier1, Claus Bech2, Céline Clément-Chastel1, Giacomo Dell’Omo3, Geir W. Gabrielsen4, Ádám Z. Lendvai5, Børge Moe6, Elin Noreen2, David Pinaud1, Sabrina Tartu1, Olivier Chastel1

1Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, CNRS, 79360, Villiers-en-Bois, France
2Department of Biology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), 7491 Trondheim, Norway
3Ornis italica, 00152 Rome, Italy
4Norwegian Polar Research Institute, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
5Dept. of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech, 4102 Derring Hall, 24060 Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
6Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Arctic Ecology Dept, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Late breeding usually occurs during years of poor environmental conditions, but the proximate mechanisms underlying this phenological pattern have been poorly documented. Here, we combined the deployment of GPS devices (from 2008 to 2010) and the monitoring of breeding parameters and baseline corticosterone levels (from 2007 to 2011) during the pre-laying period to investigate the proximate regulation of breeding date in an Arctic population of black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla. The timing of breeding varied considerably during the course of the study and late breeding was associated with reduced clutch size and low breeding success at the individual level. Foraging strategies differed considerably between males and females and among years. All but one of the females tracked using GPS during the pre-laying period foraged inside the fjord, whereas tracked males foraged both inside and outside the fjord, using the deep waters of the Greenland-Svalbard ridge. Trips lasted longer and were to greater distances in 2009, the year of late breeding, compared to 2008 and 2010, highlighting a food scarcity in 2009. Corticosterone levels differed among years, and were the lowest in 2010, the year of earliest breeding. Moreover, kittiwakes exhibiting higher corticosterone levels tended to undertake longer trips when foraging outside the fjord. Breeding decision and laying date were not related to corticosterone levels at the individual level, but were positively influenced by body condition, suggesting that complex proximate mechanisms may affect timing of breeding in kittiwakes.


KEY WORDS: Rissa tridactyla · Stress · Hormones · GPS · Phenology · Reproduction · Annual variations · Svalbard


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Cite this article as: Goutte A, Angelier F, Bech C, Clément-Chastel C and others (2014) Annual variation in the timing of breeding, pre‑breeding foraging areas and corticosterone levels in an Arctic population of black-legged kittiwakes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 496:233-247. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10650

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