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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13905

Seasonal variations in migration strategy of a long-distance arctic-breeding seabird

Yannick Seyer*, Gilles Gauthier, Joël Bêty, Jean-François Therrien, Nicolas Lecomte

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Long-distance migratory seabirds need to adjust their migration strategy according to internal (breeding, molting) and external factors (seasonality, resource availability). Time-minimizing strategies are common during spring migration to arrive at the optimal time to breed. We studied the annual movements and migration strategy of the long-tailed jaeger Stercorarius longicaudus, a small arctic-nesting seabird. First, we documented year-round movements (routes, wintering sites) of male and female jaegers breeding in the Canadian Arctic. We then compared their migration strategies between seasons (phenology, stopover use, travel distance, speed) to determine whether they adopt a time-minimizing strategy in spring. Over 6 years, we collected 43 tracks from geolocators deployed on Bylot and Igloolik islands. Jaegers departed the breeding site over a 5-week period and traveled on average 32375 km (round trip) before returning to breed, one of the longest documented migrations on Earth. Birds used a major stopover area east of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in spring and fall, and wintered in high marine productivity areas of the South Atlantic. Unexpectedly, the spring migration was 40% longer and 32% slower than in fall and birds increased their time spent on water (foraging and/or resting) by 61%. A time-minimizing strategy in fall may help to reach the wintering site rapidly and start molting early. In spring, a fly-and-forage strategy seems to be adopted to increase foraging effort, probably for the accumulation of body reserves before breeding and in anticipation of unfavorable conditions that may prevail at arrival on their arctic breeding site.