Winter migration of rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes c. chrysocome) breeding in the Southwest Atlantic: is utilisation of different foraging areas reflected in opposing population trends?
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- Pütz, K., Rey, A.R., Schiavini, A. et al. Polar Biol (2006) 29: 735. doi:10.1007/s00300-006-0110-0
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Rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome) breeding on Staten Island, Argentina, were satellite tracked in 2002 and 2003 during the onset of their winter migration. After their moult, the dispersal of 24 birds was monitored for a mean period of 50.0±40.3 days. Birds travelled at a mean velocity of 3.1±1.1 km/h. The mean minimum distance travelled was 1,640±1,425 km; the maximum distance to the colony was generally less than 1,000 km, although one bird travelled more than 2,000 km from the colony. The penguins dispersed over an area totalling about 1.3 million km², ranging from 50 to 62°S and from 49°W in the Atlantic to 92°W in the Pacific, and covering polar, sub-polar and temperate waters in oceanic regions as well as shelf waters. Despite the very wide dispersal, both temporally and spatially, two important wintering grounds for rockhopper penguins from Staten Island could be identified, both located over shelf regions: one extended from Staten Island to the north along the coast of Tierra del Fuego up to the Magellan Strait; the other was located over the Burdwood Bank, an isolated extension of the Patagonian Shelf to the south of the Falkland Islands. The Drake Passage also appeared to be an important area for wintering penguins, although dispersal was far more widely spread. Comparison with data obtained during winter from rockhopper penguins originating from the Falkland Islands showed that the area off the coast of Tierra del Fuego was used more or less exclusively by birds from Staten Island, whereas the Burdwood Bank was shared with penguins coming from southern colonies in the Falkland Islands. The implications of these findings are discussed with regard to (a) opposing population trends of rockhopper penguins in the Southwest Atlantic, and (b) the urgent need to establish adequate conservation measures for species and habitat protection.