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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13804

Post fledging movements, mortality and migration of juvenile northern gannets

Jude V. Lane*, Christopher J. Pollock, Ruth Jeavons, Maggie Sheddan, Robert W. Furness, Keith C. Hamer

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: ABSRACT: Studying the at-sea movements and behaviour of juvenile seabirds is logistically challenging but new technologies now allow tracking birds on their first migration, giving a more complete picture of population-level spatial ecology. We investigated the post-fledging migration of juvenile northern gannets Morus bassanus from the world’s largest colony, at Bass Rock, Scotland. We first examined the movements and survival of 38 juveniles over their initial days at sea with GPS precision for up to 53 days post-fledging. We then compared their migration journeys with those of 35 adults tracked with geolocators. Almost one third of juveniles died within two months of leaving the colony and this mortality was often associated with apparent uncertainties in their direction of migration, including marked, abrupt and often repeated changes in bearing within the North Sea. Both juveniles and adults then migrated as far as the Canary Current Large Marine Ecosystem (CCLME) off the Atlantic coast of West Africa, initially taking both clockwise and counter-clockwise routes around the UK. Juveniles covered a similar distance each day to adults but they reached the CCLME much more quickly, mainly because they travelled more directly, staying close to the coast throughout most of their migration, whereas adults additionally spent long periods over relatively restricted areas of ocean further offshore. The CCLME is a hotspot of unregulated fishing activity and our findings highlight the importance of this region across different age-classes of birds, echoing previous calls that the regional strengthening of marine conservation should be a high priority.