Marine Biology

, Volume 143, Issue 2, pp 221–232 | Cite as

Feeding strategies and diets of breeding grey-headed and wandering albatrosses at South Georgia

  • J. C. Xavier
  • J. P. Croxall
  • P. N. Trathan
  • A. G. Wood


The foraging areas and diets of the grey-headed albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma and wandering albatross Diomedea exulans were studied in March/April 2000 at Bird Island, South Georgia, during their respective chick-rearing and brood-guard periods. Oceanographically, March/April 2000 was abnormal, with warm conditions close to South Georgia. These conditions affected albatross foraging behaviour, particularly that of grey-headed albatrosses. Both species tended to forage in different areas of the ocean, with significant differences in trip durations. Grey-headed albatrosses (n=9) foraged mainly in Antarctic waters (predominantly shelf waters of the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula, and also in oceanic waters around South Georgia), feeding mainly on krill (Euphausia superba; 77% by mass). Foraging trips lasted 13.3 days (range: 5–26 days), far longer than the 1–3 days found in previous studies. Only one grey-headed albatross was associated with the APF (Antarctic Polar Front), a reported foraging area in recent studies. Wandering albatrosses (n=9) foraged in Antarctic (South Georgia Shelf) and Antarctic Polar Frontal Zone (APFZ) waters, with trips of 1–4 days trip duration (usual for this species), feeding on fish (46% by mass) and cephalopods (32%). One bird was associated with the APF, and two birds foraged on the shelf/shelf break over the Patagonian shelf. These findings suggest that sea surface temperature anomalies, produced by movement of the APF closer to South Georgia or by eddies, may have had an effect on the foraging strategy of grey-headed albatrosses that year (the main prey of grey-headed albatrosses in previous studies, the ommastrephid Martialia hyadesi, is known to be associated with the APF). Also, when both albatross breeding periods overlap, their foraging areas were complementary, which reflected the prey taken.


Antarctic Peninsula Advance Very High Resolution Radiometer Advance Very High Resolution Radiometer Fishing Vessel Antarctic Water 
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We would like to thank D. Roberts, N. Aspey, M. Jessop and M. Powell for assistance in the field and D. Briggs in Cambridge. G. Podestá, S. Colwell, R. Ladkin and T. Lachlan-Cope for providing the SST data. P. Rodhouse, M. Wells, S. Thorpe, K. Arnold and M. Meredith for the useful discussions on oceanography. K. Reid for help on the identification of fish otoliths. This research was supported by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, Portugal (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia), by the British Antarctic Survey and by the University of Cambridge.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. C. Xavier
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. P. Croxall
    • 1
  • P. N. Trathan
    • 1
  • A. G. Wood
    • 1
  1. 1.British Antarctic SurveyNatural Environment Research CouncilCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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