Winter diet of the little auk (Alle alle) in the Northwest Atlantic
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The little auk (Alle alle) is one of the most numerous seabirds in the world, but their winter prey selection has never been thoroughly studied. In the present study, we analyzed the proventricular contents of 205 little auks caught in coastal areas off southwest Greenland during December–February and off Newfoundland in March. Large Calanoid copepods are known to be the main prey during summer. We found krill to become the crucial winter prey in both areas, followed by Themisto spp. and young capelin (Mallotus villosus). No difference was found between the diet of juvenile and adult birds. Copepods constituted around 1 % of the diet and close to all copepods were in birds caught near Cape Farwell in December. These findings provide new and important insight into the forage ecology of the little auk, and they support other studies showing that large Calanoid copepods in the Arctic decent for winter hibernation at depths that are below the diving range of the little auks. More studies to determine offshore diet and annual variation are, however, needed in order to get a more complete picture.
KeywordsFeeding ecology Winter diet Krill Themisto spp Greenland Newfoundland
Funding for this project was provided by The Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.
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