Marine Biology

, Volume 161, Issue 9, pp 2121–2129 | Cite as

Flexible foraging strategies in a diving seabird with high flight cost

  • Akiko Shoji
  • Ellie Owen
  • Mark Bolton
  • Ben Dean
  • Holly Kirk
  • Annette Fayet
  • Dave Boyle
  • Robin Freeman
  • Chris Perrins
  • Stéphane Aris-Brosou
  • Tim Guilford
Original Paper


How central-place foragers change search strategy in response to environmental conditions is poorly known. Foragers may vary the total distance travelled and how far they range from the central place in response to variation in the distribution of their prey. One potential reason as to why they would extend the length of their foraging trip and its distance from the colony would be to increase prey quality or quantity, despite incurring higher transit costs. To test this trade-off hypothesis in a species with high flight costs, we recorded the foraging behaviour of razorbills (Alca torca) using state-of-the-art techniques that log both individual horizontal (flight activity) and vertical (dive activity) movements. We show that the distance that razorbills travelled to foraging locations increased with sea-surface temperature, which may relate to higher prey quality or quantity. This relation is supported by an indirect index of patch quality, based on dive profiles, which also increased with travel distance from the colony. Furthermore, we show that this index was highest during the daily peak in diving activity, around midday. Taken together, these results suggest that razorbills are capable of adjusting their search strategies sensitively in response to proximate environmental cues.


Global Position System Tide Height Trip Duration Patch Quality Dive Depth 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank P. Collins who dedicated time for our projects during the 2012 field season. We also thank A. Flack, M. Mac, L. Yates, S. Harris, and C. Taylor for assistance in the field, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales and C. Taylor, Skomer Warden, for logistic support. T. Gaston, K. Elliott and E.E. van Loon provided comments on an earlier version of the paper. We also thank Paul Regular and two anonymous reviewers, whose comments improved the manuscript significantly. Financial support came from Japan Student Services Organization (AS), the American Animal Behavior Society (AS), the Department of Zoology and Merton College (AS), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (SAB), Environment Wales through the ‘Seabirds Cymru’ project which is co-ordinated by RSPB. All work was conducted after ethical approval by the Countryside Council for Wales, the Skomer Island Advisory Committee, and the British Trust for Ornithology’s Unconventional Methods Committee (BTO permits: Guilford, 5311; Perrins, 660; Shoji, 5939).

Supplementary material

227_2014_2492_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (3.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 3184 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Akiko Shoji
    • 1
  • Ellie Owen
    • 2
  • Mark Bolton
    • 3
  • Ben Dean
    • 1
  • Holly Kirk
    • 1
  • Annette Fayet
    • 1
  • Dave Boyle
    • 4
  • Robin Freeman
    • 1
    • 5
  • Chris Perrins
    • 4
  • Stéphane Aris-Brosou
    • 6
  • Tim Guilford
    • 1
  1. 1.Animal Behaviour Research Group, Department of ZoologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Etive HouseBeechwood ParkUK
  3. 3.The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The LodgeSandyUK
  4. 4.Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology, Department of ZoologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  5. 5.Institute of ZoologyZoological Society of LondonLondonUK
  6. 6.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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