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Let’s go back there again: Black-browed Albatrosses are faithful foragers

Samantha Patrick (School of Environmental Science, University of Liverpool, UK) and Henri Weimerskirch have published in the Journal of Animal Ecology on foraging site and habitat fidelity in Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris.

The paper’s summary follows:

“There is widespread evidence that within populations, specialists and generalists can coexist and this is particularly prevalent in marine ecosystems, where foraging specialisations are evident.

While individuals may limit niche overlap by consistently foraging in specific areas, site fidelity may also emerge as an artefact of habitat choice, but both drivers and fitness consequences of site fidelity are poorly understood.

Here, we examine an individual metric of site and habitat fidelity, using tracking data collected over 11 years for black-browed albatrosses (Thalassarche melanophris). Fidelity was calculated as the similarity between pairs of foraging zones, quantifying measures for within and between years. Foraging areas were identified using area-restricted search, defined as periods during which birds decrease speed and increase turning.

Our results demonstrate that birds were considerably more specialised in the habitat in which they forage than the exact location they use within years, and there was a similar pattern between years. However, despite this, it was site fidelity that explained reproductive success. Within a single year, females which were more faithful to a specific location had higher reproductive success than non-specialists, and between years there was a tendency for both sexes.

Our results suggest that black-browed albatrosses are highly faithful in their foraging habitat but it is rather site fidelity that is more clearly associated with reproductive success.”

 

Black-browed Albatross, photograph by Genevieve Jones

Reference:

Patrick, S.C. & Weimerskirch, H. 2017.  Reproductive success is driven by local site fidelity despite stronger specialisation by individuals for large-scale habitat preference.  Journal of Animal Ecology  doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12636.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 April 2017