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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Effects of wind and rain on three-dimensional foraging behaviour in a wide-ranging marine predator

Jude V. Lane*, Dominick V. Spracklen, Keith C. Hamer

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine birds are strongly exposed to weather conditions at sea but to date, few studies have investigated the influences of wind or rainfall on their time-activity budgets or foraging routines. Here we use data from GPS and pressure loggers to investigate the effects of wind speed and direction and rainfall on the three-dimensional foraging behaviour of gannets breeding at Bass Rock, Scotland. We found that birds spent more time actively foraging during stronger winds but there was no subsequent increase in overall trip duration, because birds compensated by decreasing the time they spent on the water during stronger winds. Birds returned more quickly from distant foraging grounds and those encountering headwinds spent less time on the water and so were able to compensate to some extent for an adverse effect of headwinds on speed of travel over the return leg. These data strongly suggest that by reducing time spent on the water, birds were able to buffer trip durations against adverse effects of strong winds encountered during both commuting and active foraging. Birds also commuted at greater heights with increasing tail wind speed and at lower heights with increasing head wind speed, potentially providing an additional behavioural buffer against the adverse effects of strong headwinds during foraging trips. There was no discernible effect of rain on foraging but the behavioural flexibility recorded here is likely to be critical to maintaining nest attendance patterns and food provisioning rates of chicks across variable environmental conditions encountered at sea.