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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 609:209-219 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12819

Individuality of foraging behaviour in a short-ranging benthic marine predator: incidence and implications

Elizabeth A. Morgan1,3,*, Christopher Hassall1, Chris P. F. Redfern2, Richard M. Bevan2, Keith C. Hamer1

1School of Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Irene Manton Building, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
2School of Biology, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK
3Present address: British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Individual foraging site fidelity (IFSF) has been documented in a wide range of species, but few studies have examined the incidence or implications of variation among individuals in levels of fidelity, especially among short-ranging species where costs of travel place fewer constraints on exploring alternative foraging sites. Using combined GPS and dive data for 560 trips by 70 birds, we quantified the repeatability of foraging behaviour including IFSF in a short-ranging, mainly benthic predator, the European shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis, across 3 consecutive breeding seasons at a colony in NE England. There was significant repeatability in a wide range of foraging trip parameters, with highest consistency in those related to foraging location and maximum dive depth, and lowest consistency in those related to trip duration and time spent in different activities. Birds also had high IFSF overall but there was marked variation among individuals in this respect: some were highly consistent in the locations visited over multiple years whereas others frequently changed their foraging locations between successive trips. IFSF was typically higher from one year to the next than within a single year, with most birds retaining similar levels of consistency from year to year. Females with higher IFSF during chick-rearing were in better condition than birds with lower consistency and had earlier hatching dates. These data strongly suggest IFSF may be beneficial even in short-ranging species, at least in benthic feeders where prior knowledge and experience of particular habitat patches and associated prey capture techniques may be advantageous.


KEY WORDS: Individual foraging site fidelity · Individual difference · GPS tracking · Site familiarity · European shag · Phalacrocorax aristotelis · Benthic predator · Diving behaviour


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Cite this article as: Morgan EA, Hassall C, Redfern CPF, Bevan RM, Hamer KC (2019) Individuality of foraging behaviour in a short-ranging benthic marine predator: incidence and implications. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 609:209-219. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12819

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