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MEPS 697:149-165 (2022)  -  DOI:

At-sea behavioural ecology of the endangered MacGillivray’s prion from Saint Paul Island: combining tracking and stable isotopes

Karine Delord1,*, Yves Cherel1, Amédée Roy2, Paco Bustamante3,4, Kerrie M. Swadling5, Henri Weimerskirch1, Charles-André Bost1, Christophe Barbraud1

1Centre d’Études Biologiques de Chizé (CEBC), UMR 7372 du CNRS-La Rochelle Université, 79360 Villiers-en-Bois, France
2Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), MARBEC (Univ. Montpellier, Ifremer, CNRS, IRD), Avenue Jean Monnet, 34200 Sète, France
3Littoral Environnement et Sociétés (LIENSs), UMR 7266 du CNRS-La Rochelle Université, 2 rue Olympe de Gouges, 17000 La Rochelle, France
4Institut Universitaire de France (IUF), 1 Rue Descartes, 75005 Paris, France
5Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and Australian Antarctic Program Partnership (AAPP), University of Tasmania, 20 Castray Esplanade, Battery Point, Tasmania 7004, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Seabirds play important roles as marine ecosystem sentinels. Studying their at-sea ecology is essential for understanding how environmental variability affects their populations. However, the at-sea ecology of small-sized temperate seabirds remains poorly studied. We explored the at-sea ecology of the Critically Endangered MacGillivray’s prion Pachyptila macgillivrayi breeding on the subtropical Saint Paul Island. Using global location sensor loggers and stable isotope analysis, we investigated movements, migratory strategies, at-sea activity and moulting period, and characterized the isotopic niche of tracked individuals. During incubation, MacGillivray’s prions remained in temperate waters north of the Subtropical Front, possibly feeding on prey caught in cold eddies. During the inter-breeding period, individuals wintered almost equally to the north and south of the Subtropical Front in 2 distinct sectors (Tasman Sea and Southwest Indian Ridge). Daily activity varied seasonally, and individuals overwintering in the Tasman Sea spent more time flying at night when moonlight intensity was high. Moulting occurred after the breeding period and lasted longer compared to other prion species. Isotopic data suggest a higher dietary proportion of low trophic-level prey for MacGillivray’s prions than for Antarctic and slender-billed prions, highlighting trophic segregation in relation to bill width. Our study provides new evidence to understand the suite of adaptations allowing the abundant prion species to coexist by feeding on prey of different sizes. Contrary to the majority of seabird species, MacGillivray’s prions from Saint Paul Island exhibited 2 migratory tactics with associated differences in at-sea activity, leading to questions about the origin of these differences.

KEY WORDS: Pachyptila macgillivrayi · At-sea distribution · Activity pattern · Southern Indian Ocean · Geolocation · GPS · Seabirds · Bill width · Trophic position

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Cite this article as: Delord K, Cherel Y, Roy A, Bustamante P and others (2022) At-sea behavioural ecology of the endangered MacGillivray’s prion from Saint Paul Island: combining tracking and stable isotopes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 697:149-165.

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