, Volume 156, Issue 9, pp 1809-1816
Date: 20 May 2009

Do activity costs determine foraging tactics for an arctic seabird?

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How energy costs affect foraging decisions is poorly understood for marine animals. To provide data relevant to this topic, we examined the relationship between activity levels and foraging behavior by attaching activity recorders to 29 chick-rearing wing-propelled diving birds (thick-billed murres, Uria lomvia) in 1999–2000. We connected the activity during the final dive bout with the prey item we observed being fed to the chicks. After accounting for changes in activity level with depth, activity was highest during the final dive of a dive bout, reflecting maneuvring during prey capture. Pelagic prey items, especially invertebrates (amphipods), were associated with higher depth-corrected activity, leading to shorter dives for a given depth (presumably due to higher oxygen consumption rates) and, thus, shorter search times (lower bottom time for a given depth). Pelagic prey items were likely captured during active pursuit, with the birds actively seeking and pursuing schooling mid-water prey. In contrast, benthic prey involved low activity and extended search times, suggesting that the birds slowly glided along the bottom in search for prey hidden in the sediments or rocks. We concluded that activity levels are important in determining the foraging tactics of marine predators.

Communicated by S. Garthe.