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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 606:215-230 (2018)  -  DOI:

Within-colony spatial segregation leads to foraging behaviour variation in a seabird

Sonia Sánchez1,*, Richard D. Reina1, Akiko Kato2, Yan Ropert-Coudert2, Catherine Cavallo1, Graeme C. Hays3, André Chiaradia4

1School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia
2Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, CNRS - Université de La Rochelle UMR 7372, 79360 Villiers-en-Bois, France
3Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria 3280, Australia
4Research Department, Phillip Island Nature Parks, PO Box 97, Cowes, Victoria 3922, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Central-place foraging in large seabird colonies leads to high levels of intra-specific competition for food resources, often resulting in between-colony spatial segregation. However, little is known about within-colony variation in foraging behaviour that may arise from breeding locations. Using little penguins Eudyptula minor from a large colony (ca. 32000 individuals) on Phillip Island (Australia), we present a novel approach combining GPS, diving, acceleration and bathymetry data. We investigated within-colony variation in 3-dimensional distribution of prey encounters and its consequences for foraging behaviour and breeding success. Over 1 breeding season, we simultaneously tracked 63 little penguins from 2 breeding sites located ~2 km apart and monitored their breeding success. We recorded 58452 dives, of which 11992 had prey encounter events associated. Results revealed strong spatial foraging segregation between sites throughout the breeding season and differences between sites in prey encounter depth during chick-rearing (mean ± SE, 11.8 ± 0.2 m vs. 17.3 ± 0.3 m). Birds from one site foraged in deeper waters and apparently experienced higher levels of competition, resulting in lower prey encounter rates and lower foraging efficiency (i.e. body mass gain after foraging trips), hence these birds seemed less successful. However, breeding success was high (>1.5 chicks fledged per pair) at both sites, indicating that food was not a limiting factor that year. Nonetheless, breeding success records over the last 12 yr showed that the site where birds foraged at deeper depths produced fewer chicks. Our findings highlight the importance of understanding small-scale spatial segregation to capture foraging behaviour variation within large seabird colonies.

KEY WORDS: Prey encounter · Diving behaviour · Colonial breeding · Foraging efficiency · Breeding ecology · Bio-logging · Acceleration · Eudyptula minor

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Cite this article as: Sánchez S, Reina RD, Kato A, Ropert-Coudert Y, Cavallo C, Hays GC, Chiaradia A (2018) Within-colony spatial segregation leads to foraging behaviour variation in a seabird. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 606:215-230.

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