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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

The Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea: consistency and variability in spatial use at a global oceanographic scale

Chris P. F. Redfern*, Richard M. Bevan

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Elucidating the ecological factors underpinning migratory strategies of seabirds is necessary for understanding resilience to environmental change. Arctic terns breed in the Northern Hemisphere and are unique for the global scale of their migration. Geolocator data from 37 Arctic terns breeding in a low-latitude colony, 10 of which were re-tagged in successive years, were analysed to characterise their migratory behaviour and to test the hypothesis that individuals have repeatable migration strategies. Seawater immersion data suggested a fly–forage strategy, with birds remaining on the wing at night and only foraging during daylight. Southward movement was focused initially along Atlantic eastern-boundary upwelling systems. Most terns then reoriented eastwards, crossing the southern Indian Ocean before moving south to the Antarctic. Foraging intensity differed between migration phases. Indian Ocean foraging locations were diverse, and less frequent over deep ocean basins. Foraging intensity was highest in the later stages of return migration, particularly in and around the Azores Confluence Zone. High movement speeds and foraging intensity on return migration may be adaptations to optimise reproductive success. Some aspects of migration phenology were repeatable between years, but trajectories were displaced by wind. Repeat birds did not use the same foraging areas in different years, and their trajectories across the Indian Ocean also differed. The results of this study suggest that the Indian Ocean crossing is a behaviour pattern, surviving since the last ice age, enabling Arctic tern breeding at low latitude north–west European colonies to arrive at fragmenting Antarctic sea-ice when foraging conditions are suitable.