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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 633:225-238 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13171

At-sea movements of wedge-tailed shearwaters during and outside the breeding season from four colonies in New Caledonia

Henri Weimerskirch1,*, Sophie de Grissac1,2, Andreas Ravache3,4, Aurélien Prudor1, Alexandre Corbeau1, Bradley C. Congdon5, Fiona McDuie5, Karen Bourgeois3, Sylvain Dromzée3, John Butscher6, Christophe Menkes4, Valérie Allain7, Eric Vidal3,4, Audrey Jaeger8, Philippe Borsa9

1Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, UMR 7372 du CNRS-Université de La Rochelle, 79360 Villiers-en-Bois, France
2Swansea Laboratory for Animal Movement, Department of Biosciences, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK
3Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d’Ecologie marine et continentale (IMBE), Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, IRD, Avignon Université, Centre IRD Nouméa - BP A5, 98848 Nouméa Cedex, New Caledonia
4UMR ENTROPIE (IRD-Université de La Réunion-CNRS), Laboratoire d’Excellence Labex-CORAIL, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), BP A5, 98848 Nouméa CEDEX, New Caledonia, France
5College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Cairns, QLD 4878, Australia
6IRD-Sorbonne Universités (UPMC, Univ Paris 06)-CNRS-MNHN, LOCEAN Laboratory Centre IRD de Nouméa, 98848 Nouméa Cedex, France
7Pacific Community (CPS), 98848 Nouméa, New Caledonia
8UMR ENTROPIE, UMR 9220 du CNRS- IRD-Université de La Réunion, 15 Avenue René Cassin, BP 92003, 97744 Saint-Denis, La Réunion, France
9UMR ENTROPIE, IRD, 34394 Montpellier, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The wedge-tailed shearwater (WTS) population of New Caledonia is one of the largest in the world, yet its biology and foraging ecology are poorly known. We studied WTS from 4 colonies in New Caledonia. We examined foraging behaviour and habitats using GPS receivers and light sensors during and outside the breeding season, respectively, and compared our findings with those from other WTS populations worldwide. During breeding, New Caledonian WTS alternated short foraging trips close to the colony over the lagoon, or off the reef edge, with longer trips over distant, deep waters. Whereas neighboring colonies overlapped at sea, especially during short trips, there was a clear separation of foraging zones between the pairs of colonies located in the southern versus northwestern parts of New Caledonia. Although WTS actively foraged and commuted to foraging zones during the day, they mainly returned to the colony or rested at night, indicating that they feed mainly during the day. Active foraging did not take place in more productive areas, suggesting that it may instead be related to the presence of sub-surface predators. Outside the breeding season, birds from 3 colonies had similar trans-equatorial migratory behaviour. All left New Caledonia at the same time of the year with a fast, northeasterly movement and wintered over deep waters in the same sector of the northwestern tropical Pacific Ocean. At overwintering sites, they spent most of their non-foraging time presumably sitting on the water, especially at night, making a slow westward movement before returning to New Caledonia. WTS from New Caledonia forage over warm, oligotrophic deep waters throughout their life cycle, and the species appears to have a flexible foraging strategy adapted to the various environmental conditions encountered across its wide tropical range.


KEY WORDS: Seabird · Geolocator · GPS · Trans-equatorial migration · New Caledonia


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Cite this article as: Weimerskirch H, de Grissac S, Ravache A, Prudor A and others (2020) At-sea movements of wedge-tailed shearwaters during and outside the breeding season from four colonies in New Caledonia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 633:225-238. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13171

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