Effects of body size, sex, parental care and moult strategies on auk diving behaviour outside the breeding seasonDunn, Ruth; Wanless, Sarah; Green, Jonathan; Harris, M. P.; Daunt, Francis
6 May 2019
Information on seabird foraging behaviour outside the breeding season is currently limited. This knowledge gap is critical as this period is energetically demanding due to post-fledging parental care, feather moult and changing environmental conditions. Based on species’ body size, post-fledging parental strategy and primary moult schedule we tested predictions for key aspects of foraging behaviour (Maximum Dive Depth (MDD), Daily Time Submerged (DTS) and Diurnal Dive Activity (DDA)) using dive depth data collected from three seabird species (common guillemot Uria aalge, razorbill Alca torda and Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica) from the end of the breeding season (July) to mid-winter (January). We found partial support for predictions associated with body size; guillemots had greater MDD than razorbills but MDD did not differ between razorbills and puffins, despite the former being 35% heavier. In accordance with sexual monomorphism in all three species, MDD did not differ overall between the sexes. However, in guillemots and razorbills there were sex-specific differences, such that male guillemots made deeper dives than females, and males of both species had higher DTS. In contrast, there were no marked sex differences in dive behaviour of puffins in July and August in accordance with their lack of post-fledging parental care and variable moult schedule. We found support for the prediction that diving effort would be greater in mid-winter compared to the period after the breeding season. Despite reduced daylight in mid-winter, this increase in DTS occurred predominantly during the day and only guillemots appeared to dive nocturnally to any great extent. In comparison to diving behaviour of these species recorded during the breeding season, MDD was shallower and DTS was greater during the non-breeding period. Such differences in diving behaviour during the post-breeding period are relevant when identifying potential energetic bottlenecks, known to be key drivers of seabird population dynamics.