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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 676:127-144 (2021)  -  DOI:

Six pelagic seabird species of the North Atlantic engage in a fly-and-forage strategy during their migratory movements

F. Amélineau1,*, B. Merkel1,22, A. Tarroux2, S. Descamps1, T. Anker-Nilssen3, O. Bjørnstad4, V. S. Bråthen3, O. Chastel5, S. Christensen-Dalsgaard5, J. Danielsen6, F. Daunt7, N. Dehnhard3, M. Ekker8, K. E. Erikstad2, A. Ezhov9, P. Fauchald2, M. Gavrilo10,11,23, G. T. Hallgrimsson12, E. S. Hansen13, M. P. Harris7, M. Helberg14, H. H. Helgason1,24, M. K. Johansen1, J. E. Jónsson15, Y. Kolbeinsson16, Y. Krasnov9, M. Langset3, S. H. Lorentsen3, E. Lorentzen1, M. V. Melnikov17, B. Moe3, M. A. Newell7, B. Olsen6, T. Reiertsen2, G. H. Systad18, P. Thompson19, T. L. Thórarinsson16, E. Tolmacheva20, S. Wanless7, K. Wojczulanis-Jakubas21, J. Åström3, H. Strøm1

1Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
2Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
3Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, 7485 Trondheim, Norway
4Karmøy Ringmerkingsgruppe, 4280 Skudeneshavn, Norway
5Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, UMR7372, CNRS-Université La Rochelle, 79360 Villiers en Bois, France
6Faroe Marine Research Institute, 100 Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
7UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Penicuik, EH26 0QB, UK
8Norwegian Environment Agency, 7485 Trondheim, Norway
9Murmansk Marine Biological Institute, 183010 Murmansk, Russia
10National Park Russian Arctic, 163069 Archangelsk, Russia
11Association Maritime Heritage, 199106 Saint Petersburg, Russia
12Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Iceland, 102 Reykjavik, Iceland
13South Iceland Nature Research Centre, 900 Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland
14Østfold University College, 1757 Halden, Norway
15University of Iceland’s Research Centre at Snæfellsnes, 340 Stykkishólmur, Iceland
16Northeast Iceland Nature Research Centre, 640 Húsavík, Iceland
17Lipetsk State Pedagogical University, 398020 Lipetsk, Russia
18Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, 5006 Bergen, Norway
19Lighthouse Field Station, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, IV11 8YL, UK
20Kandalaksha State Nature Reserve, 184042 Kandalaksha, Russia
21University of Gdansk, 80-309 Gdansk, Poland
22Present address: Akvaplan-niva, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway
23Present address: Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, 198397 Saint Petersburg, Russia
24Present address: East Iceland Nature Research Centre, 740 Neskaupstaður, Iceland
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Bird migration is commonly defined as a seasonal movement between breeding and non-breeding grounds. It generally involves relatively straight and directed large-scale movements, with a latitudinal change, and specific daily activity patterns comprising less or no foraging and more traveling time. Our main objective was to describe how this general definition applies to seabirds. We investigated migration characteristics of 6 pelagic seabird species (little auk Alle alle, Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica, common guillemot Uria aalge, Brünnich’s guillemot U. lomvia, black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla and northern fulmars Fulmarus glacialis). We analysed an extensive geolocator positional and saltwater immersion dataset from 29 colonies in the North-East Atlantic and across several years (2008-2019). We used a novel method to identify active migration periods based on segmentation of time series of track characteristics (latitude, longitude, net-squared displacement). Additionally, we used the saltwater immersion data of geolocators to infer bird activity. We found that the 6 species had, on average, 3 to 4 migration periods and 2 to 3 distinct stationary areas during the non-breeding season. On average, seabirds spent the winter at lower latitudes than their breeding colonies and followed specific migration routes rather than non-directionally dispersing from their colonies. Differences in daily activity patterns were small between migratory and stationary periods, suggesting that all species continued to forage and rest while migrating, engaging in a ‘fly-and-forage’ migratory strategy. We thereby demonstrate the importance of habitats visited during seabird migrations as those that are not just flown over, but which may be important for re-fuelling.

KEY WORDS: Light-level geolocation · Non-breeding movements · Migration strategies · Dovekies · Common murres · Thick-billed murres

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Cite this article as: Amélineau F, Merkel B, Tarroux A, Descamps S and others (2021) Six pelagic seabird species of the North Atlantic engage in a fly-and-forage strategy during their migratory movements. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 676:127-144.

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