Marine top predators forage in environments that show potentially extreme temporal and spatial variation in prey availability, with reproductive success being crucially linked to food supply. Multiple factors of interannual and sexual variation, as well as variation across breeding stages, can shape patterns of spatial use in foraging seabirds, yet studies that address all of these variables simultaneously are rare. We present spatial assessment of foraging patterns by µGPS tracking of a sexually size monomorphic, long-lived species, the Australasian gannet (Morus serrator). The study spanned the incubation and chick-rearing stages in three consecutive breeding seasons. Our findings revealed high interannual variability in foraging distances and trip durations, but no consistent differences between birds across different breeding stages or the sexes. The exception was that core foraging areas were different for female and male Australasian gannets, although trip durations or distances were similar for both sexes. Our results also indicate bimodality in foraging distance and trip duration in this species, while highlighting interannual variability in the extent of bimodality. These findings contribute to a scarcely documented type of foraging behaviour in the seabird family of the Sulidae. Overall, these spatial use patterns provide a baseline for understanding the evolution of sex-specific foraging differences in biparental seabirds, and the extent to which these differences might help in securing breeding success across years of variable food availability.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science