South Atlantic male and female Sooty Shearwaters forage in different areas during pre-laying

April Hedd (Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology Program, Psychology Department, Memorial University, St. John’s, Canada) and colleagues have published open-access in PLoS ONE on differences in foraging areas by breeding male and female Sooty Shearwaters Puffinus griseus in the South Atlantic.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Tracking technology has revolutionized knowledge of seabird movements; yet, few studies have examined sex differences in distribution and behavior of small to medium-sized, sexually-monomorphic seabirds.  Application of bird-borne geolocation-immersion loggers revealed seasonal segregation in the sexually-monomorphic Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus, mainly in the pre-laying period, when there were clear differences in reproductive roles.  Shearwaters first returned to the Falkland Islands on 27 Sept±8 d; males, on average, 8 d earlier than females.  Prior to egg-laying, distribution at sea, colony attendance and behaviour depended on sex.  Males foraged locally over the southern Patagonian Shelf and Burdwood Bank, spending mainly single days at sea and intervening nights in the burrow.  Females, who flew for more of the day during this time, foraged in more distant areas of the northern Patagonian Shelf and Argentine Basin that were deeper, warmer and relatively more productive.  Attendance of females at the colony was also more variable than that of males and, overall, males were present for significantly more of the pre-laying period (38 vs. 19% of time).  Sex differences were reduced following egg-laying, with males and females using similar foraging areas and making trips of similar mean duration in incubation (7.6±2.7 d) and chick-rearing (1.4±1.3 d).  Congruence continued into the non-breeding period, with both sexes showing similar patterns of activity and areas of occupancy in the NW Atlantic.  Thus, seasonal changes in reproductive roles influenced patterns of sexual segregation; this occurred only early in the season, when male Sooty Shearwaters foraged locally, returning regularly to the colony to defend (or maintain) the burrow or the mate, while females concentrated on building resources for egg development in distant and relatively more productive waters.”

Sooty Shearwater at sea, photograph by John Graham

With thanks to April Hedd for information.


Hedd, A., Montevecchi, W.A., Phillips, R.A. & Fifield, D.A. 2014.  Seasonal sexual segregation by monomorphic Sooty Shearwaters Puffinus griseus reflects different reproductive roles during the pre-laying period.  PLoS ONE.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 January 2014

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