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Sex-specific foraging behaviour in Scopoli’s Shearwaters

Scopolis Searwater John Borg 

Scopoli’s Shearwater at sea, photograph by John Borg

Federico De Pascalisa (Dipartimento di Scienze e Politiche Ambientali, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy) and colleagues have published in the journal Animal Behaviour on GPS-tracking of chick-rearing Scopoli’s Shearwaters Calonectris diomedea.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Flexibility in foraging behaviour is a key individual trait, promoting adaptive responses to changing environmental conditions. Such flexibility can be especially pronounced in marine predators that forage in highly dynamic environments and pursue ephemeral and patchily distributed prey. Individual characteristics, social interactions and resource availability may all promote behavioural flexibility, which in turn may foster divergence in foraging tactics within populations. The adoption of specific foraging tactics by individuals from the same population could be driven by a complex mixture of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. We GPS-tracked chick-rearing parents of a sexually size dimorphic, avian, marine top predator, the Scopoli’s shearwater, Calonectris diomedea, across multiple foraging trips to investigate (1) intraindividual variation in foraging behaviour and (2) the effect of sex and wind conditions on the adoption of specific foraging tactics. Based on cluster analysis applied to GPS-derived behavioural patterns at the foraging trip scale, we identified variation in foraging trips, from fine- to coarse-scale foraging (FF and CF, respectively). FF trips were characterized by lower flight activity, shorter travel distances and more intensive prey-searching behaviour compared to CF trips. Individuals did not consistently perform FF or CF trips. Males were more prone to perform FF trips than females, but both sexes shifted towards CF trips with increasing wind intensity, probably to exploit the energetic advantages of dynamic soaring. We conclude that sex-specific foraging tactics reflect the interplay between sex-specific energetic optima, originating from differences in morphology and a reduction in the niche overlap between the sexes. By adopting flexible, sex-specific foraging tactics, shearwaters probably optimize their energy expenditure during the energy-demanding chick-rearing stage. Our study outlines the importance of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors in shaping interindividual variability in foraging behaviour.”

Reference:

De Pascalisa, F., Imperio, S., Benvenuti, A., Catoni, C., Rubolini, D. & Cecere, J.G. 2020.  Sex-specific foraging behaviour is affected by wind conditions in a sexually size dimorphic seabird.  Animal Behaviour 166 207-218.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 July 2020

UPDATED. People’s choice: the five most-liked albicakes in the inaugural World Albatross Day Bake Off

Janine Schoombie Karen Versteegh Grey headed Sooty Albatrosses 1

The winning cake," Grey-headed Albatross Ridge, Marion Island" by Janine Schoombie and  Karen Versteegh, as chosen by ACAP's Facebook followers

Time-lapse video by Stefan Schoombie, Music by AshamaluevMusic

The Albatross and Petrel Agreement (ACAP) took the lead with the inauguration of World Albatross Day this year.  As well as contacting environmental NGOs and other organisations in many countries to ‘spread the word’ and encourage their participation, the Agreement ran four competitions to raise awareness among the public of the threats faced by albatrosses.

Results of three of these competitions (the Banner Challenge, a Colouring-in Competition and a Photography Competition) have now been announced on these pages.  It is now time to announce the results of the fourth competition, the Great Albicake Bake Off.

A total of 72 entries was received by the deadline, each made up of one or more images of the cake and a short description.  A single image of each cake was posted to an album on ACAP’s Facebook page and followers of the page were invited to vote for their favourite cake (or cakes) by liking images.  A reasonable period of time was given to allow for the voting and the results are now in and the five most popular cakes are shown here, along with their descriptions.

The winning cake entitled “Grey-headed Albatross Ridge, Marion Island” with 216 ‘likes’ is by Janine Schoombie, a former Marion field scientist, and her mother, Karen Versteegh.  Janine describes their cake: “Our cake is inspired by the inland ridge on Marion Island where a large portion of the Grey-headed Albatrosses breed, aptly named Grey-headed Albatross Ridge.  Visible from the nearest field hut is a Grey-headed Albatross long-term monitoring colony and a waterfall with a few breeding Sooty Albatrosses.  Both these species are currently listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.  We tried to capture the beautiful features of the birds as well as the terraced breeding colonies characteristic of the Ridge, complete with lush tussock grass overhanging the grey lava rock faces.  It was also important for us to add the presence of mice around the colony of albatrosses to represent the current threat these birds are facing.

The bottom tier is a dark chocolate cake with two gluten-free banana cakes as the middle and top layers. The cake is covered with a smooth cream cheese icing for the grey lava and green tussock grass.  The albatrosses and mice are made from home-made marshmallow fondant and sit atop cake cut-out nests covered with chocolate buttercream icing and green coloured coconut to represent peat used in building nests.  The waterfall is made from coloured white chocolate ganache.”

Janine Schoombie Karen Versteegh Grey headed Sooty Albatrosses 6

Grey-headed Albatross Ridge, Marion Island, photograph by Janine Schoombie

Emily Mowat Wanderer egg cake

 “Wandering Albatross Chick-hatching Cake” by Emily Mowat

Coming in second with 105 likes is “Wandering Albatross Chick-hatching Cake” by Emily Mowat, a former Macquarie Island albatross researcher.  She writes “The creation is a Wandering Albatross chick hatching on its nest.  The cake is all vegan chocolate cake with chocolate and peanut butter ‘nesting material’ and a white chocolate egg with a marzipan bill.”

Emily Mowat Wanderer egg cake 

Emily Mowat proudly displays her cake

Adam Naylor 2 

Third placed is by Adam Naylor, with 101 likes.  Called “Gough in Miniature”, Adam describes it as "adult Tristan Albatrosses displaying on the summit of a chocolate sponge Gough Island.  On the cliffs below invasive mice and Sagina plants run rampant, showing the threats to this incredible place and the importance of restarting the Gough Island Restoration Programme”.

Jean Purdon 3

Jean Purdon 0 

The fourth cake by 99 Facebook likes was submitted by Jean Purdon, another ex-Marion Island researcher.  She writes “Here is a Grey-headed Albatross chick on Marion Island made out of vanilla cake with colour sprinkles inside.  It is covered in fondant and the Albi is covered in candy floss.  I modelled the cake on the attached photo [above] that I took after spending a year on the island working on the Marion Island Marine Mammal Programme.  I added the Mus musculus to highlight the plight of Albi chicks on mouse-infested sub-Antarctic islands.”

Melanie Wells Light mantled Albatross 4

Rounding off the top five with 81 likes is the entry by Melanie Wells (another ex-Macquarie Island researcher).  She describes her creation as “a Light mantled Albatross.  The cake is basic chocolate with buttercream frosting (using activated charcoal for colouring) and marzipan to make feet, bill & eye - all vegan.  The cake is inspired by my time working on Macquarie Island where 10% of the global population of this species breeds.  Mark-recapture monitoring, primarily from chick banding, has been conducted on Macquarie Island since 1955.  This highly charismatic species (seems to be everyone's fave alby who has had the pleasure of meeting one) is particularly memorable for its haunting "PEEE-AWWW" call (which the bird is doing in the image) ".

Melanie Wells Light mantled Albatross 1 

Legs still to come!  Melanie Wells works on her cake

A later post to ACAP Latest News will feature the seven category-winning cakes as chosen by the judges.

With thanks to all those who submitted images of their albatross cakes to the World Albatross Day Great Albicake Bake Off.  Giant petrel cakes for WAD2021?

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 July 2020, updated 27 July 2020

 

 

World Albatross Day 2020 Photography Competition: Winner and Runners-up chosen

                                

Black-browed Albatross, winning photograph by Rodrigo Tapia Jimenez

The Photography Competition “Albatrosses, their World and Threats” organized as part of the celebrations of World Albatross Day (WAD2020) was well received, with 360 photographs from 91 photographers submitted from all over the world.

Really beautiful and stunning images were submitted.  We appreciate the participation of everyone who shared their photographs and so helped increase awareness of the threats facing albatrosses.

The jury, consisting of Christine Bogle, Pablo Cáceres, Marco Favero, Jim Hurst, Veronica López, Rodrigo Moraga, Tatiana Neves and Michelle Risi, had the difficult task of selecting 20 short-listed images which subsequently went to popular vote via WAD’s Instagram page.  Finally, of the three most highly voted photographs by the public, the jury defined 1st, 2nd and 3rd places, as given below:

1st Place:  Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris, Drake Passage by Rodrigo Tapia Jimenez @rodrigotapiawildlifephoto

Opinions of the judges:
"By far, this is the one I like most because I think represents in a very best way the life, the habitat, and freedom of the albatross.  As well a very awesome point of view and beautiful light and colours.  Also an excellent description".
"The first-place photo is what I've always wanted to see of an albatross life, what it's like to live and move through the windy oceans. This was also the most difficult shot to get”

++Second Place Eduardo Navarro Shy Albatross

2nd Place:  Salvin’s Albatross Thalassarche salvini, Valparaiso, Chile by Eduardo Navarro @edonavarroce

Opinions of the judges:
"Perfect moment. Beautiful bird, beautiful light, beautiful colours.  Such a nice reflection.  And a very good text as well"

Third Place Rodrigo Ortega Shy Albatross

3rd Place:  Salvin’s Albatross Thalassarche salvini, Quintero, Chile by Rodrigo Ortega @rodrigortega.cl

Opinion of the judges
"Special moment, good pose and capture"

*************************************

El Concurso de Fotografía Albatros, su mundo y sus amenazasorganizado como parte de las celebraciones del Día Mundial de los Albatros (WAD2020), tuvo una importante participación recibiendo 360 fotos, de 91 fotógrafos de todas partes del mundo.

Llegaron imágenes realmente hermosas e impresionantes. Agradecemos la participación de todos los que compartieron sus fotografías y ayudaron a divulgar la información y el conocimiento de los albatros.

El jurado, integrado por Christine Bogle, Pablo Cáceres, Marco Favero, Jim Hurst, Veronica López, Rodrigo Moraga, Tatiana Neves and Michelle Risi tuvo la difícil misión de seleccionar las 20 imágenes finalistas del concurso, las que posteriormente pasaron a votación popular en el instagram del WAD.

Finalmente, de entre las 3 fotografías más votadas por el público, el jurado definió al 1º, 2º y 3º lugar, los que fueron los siguientes:

1º Lugar: Albatros de ceja negra Thalassarche melanophris, Paso Drake por Rodrigo Tapia Jimenez @rodrigotapiawildlifephoto

Opiniones del jurado:

"By far, this is the one I like most because I think represent in a very best way the life, the habitat, and freedom of the albatross. As well a very awesome point of view and beautiful light and colours.  Also an excellent description".

"The first-place photo is what I´ve always wanted to see of an albatross´s life, what it´s like to live and move through the windy oceans. This was also the most difficult shot to get"

2ª Lugar:  Albatros de Salvin Thalassarche salvini, Valparaíso, Chile por Eduardo Navarro @edonavarroce

Opiniones del jurado:

"Perfect moment. Beautiful bird, beautiful light, beautiful colours. Such a nice reflection.  And a very good text as well"

3º Lugar: Albatros de Salvin Thalassarche salvini, Quintero, Chile por Rodrigo Ortega @rodrigortega.cl

Opiniones del jurado

"Special moment, good pose and capture"

Pablo Cáceres & Verónica López, Oikonos Foundation, Chile, 23 July 2020

Another casualty of COVID-19: New Zealand’s Auckland Island pest eradication project gets put on hold

Auckland Island pig Pete McClelland 

Feral pigs on Auckland Island can kill White-capped Albatross Thalassarche steadi chicks, photograph by Pete McClelland

The Maukahuka Pest Free Auckland Island project has been halted by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation until further funding can be secured.  However, the project will still complete the feasibility study and draft operational plans this year for the eradication of the island’s feral pigs and cats and House Mice (click here).

The COVID-19 pandemic has largely stopped international travel round the world and New Zealand is no exception to this, with no incoming tourists.  This will affect income for the eradication project from the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy.  In addition, half the project’s funding is expected to come from donors, some of whom will be struggling financially, leading to the decision by the Department of Conservation to call a pause.

This setback, not the only one, has come in the year when the inaugural World Albatross Day on 19 June had the theme “Eradicating Island Pests”.  Earlier, both the Gough Island and Midway Atoll mouse eradication projects were postponed until at least next year due to travel restrictions as a consequence of the pandemic.  On South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Marion Island all field work has been halted due to virus concerns, causing a break in decades-long monitoring of the island’s albatrosses and giant petrels.  Planning and fund-raising towards eradicating Marion’s mice over the next few years is also likely to be slowed.  Back in New Zealand field work on nominate  Antipodean Albatrosses Diomedea a. antipodensis on Antipodes Island came to a premature halt when the field team was evacuated early.

With the chance of field work and eradication projects getting going again on albatross islands next year perhaps ‘WAD2021’ needs to repeat the inaugural theme?

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 July 2020

Lack of temporal trend over 17 years in the trophic level of Cory’s Shearwaters suggests a stable food web

Corys Shearwater in flight 

Cory's Shearwater in flight

Raül Ramos (Institute for Research on Biodiversity (IRBIO) Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain) and colleagues have published in the journal Ecological Indicators on the presumed stability in trophic level over time in Cory’s Shearwaters Calonectris borealis based on feather analysis.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Despite its importance for ecology and conservation, we are still far from understanding how environmental variability interacts with intrinsic factors and individual specialization to determine trophic strategies of long-lived taxa, mostly due to difficulties in studying the same animals over extended periods. Here, by yearly consistently sampling the first primary feather of 99 Cory’s shearwaters (Calonectris borealis) foraging in the Canary Current (CC) upwelling ecosystem, we provide robust evidence on the individual changes of isotopic ratios of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) over 17 years. We reported a slight longitudinal decline of δ13C values throughout 2001–2017, even after being adjusted for the marine Suess effect (linked to the increasing CO2 emissions). Although CC is often considered to be overexploited by industrial fisheries, we could not detect a decline in Cory’s shearwater trophic level indicating a change in the trophic web structuring, as revealed by δ15N. We found negative correlations of δ13C and δ15N with the CC upwelling intensity, indicating annual variability in baseline isotopic levels propagates through the food chain and it integrates in predators’ tissues. Low individual repeatabilities among years at population level indicates low long-term specialization, suggesting long-lived individuals foraging on highly productive areas can adjust their foraging strategies and diet according to environmental variability. However, individual-level repeatabilities in isotopic values showed a range of individual specialization within the population, indicating most individuals are generalist and a few of them highly specialized. First, although we found a clear influence of the upwelling intensity on the trophic ecology of birds, we could not detect any temporal trend in the trophic level of the Cory’s shearwater population, suggesting a stability in the structure of the pelagic food web of the CC over the last two decades despite the fishing pressure. Second, the existence of individual specialization highlights the importance of considering the repeated sampling of individuals to detect small changes in the trophic ecology of a population. Finally, the coexistence of individuals with different degree of specialization (from extremely flexible [generalists] to highly consistent individuals [specialists]) within a population can have deep implications on the capacity of populations to cope with environmental change.”

Reference:

Ramos, R., Reyes-González, J.M., Morera-Pujol, V., Zajková, Z. & Militão, T. 2020.  Disentangling environmental from individual factors in isotopic ecology: a 17-year longitudinal study in a long-lived seabird exploiting the Canary Current.  Ecological Indicators 111.  doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.105963.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 21 July 2020