, Volume 189, Issue 2, pp 395–406 | Cite as

Trophic declines and decadal-scale foraging segregation in three pelagic seabirds

  • Kaycee E. MorraEmail author
  • Yoshito Chikaraishi
  • Hasand Gandhi
  • Helen F. James
  • Sam Rossman
  • Anne E. Wiley
  • Andre F. Raine
  • Jessie Beck
  • Peggy H. Ostrom
Behavioral ecology –original research


We investigated how foraging habits vary among three ecologically distinct wide-ranging seabirds. Using amino acid δ15N proxies for nutrient regime (δ15NPhe) and trophic position (Δδ15NGlu-Phe), we compared Newell’s shearwater (Puffinus newelli) and Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) foraging habits over the past 50–100 years, respectively, to published records for the Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis). Standard ellipses constructed from the isotope proxies show that inter-population and interspecific foraging segregation have persisted for several decades. We found no evidence of a shift in nutrient regime at the base of the food web for the three species. However, our data identify a trophic decline during the past century for Newell’s shearwater and Laysan albatross (probability ≥ 0.97), echoing a similar decline observed in the Hawaiian petrel. During this time, Newell’s shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels have experienced population declines and Laysan albatross has experienced range extension and apparent population stability. Counting other recent studies, a pattern of trophic decline over the past century has now been identified in eight species of pelagic seabirds that breed in the Hawaiian Islands. Because our study species forage broadly across the North Pacific Ocean and differ in morphological and behavioral traits and feeding methods, the identified trophic declines suggest a pervasive shift in food web architecture within the past century.


Stable isotope Amino acid Trophic decline Foraging ecology Seabird 



We thank the Bird Division, National Museum of Natural History, the Bernice Bishop Museum, and the California Academy of Sciences for the loan of specimens and permission to sample them. We are grateful to the National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Pacific Islands Regional Office—Fisheries Observer Program staff and observers, the vessels and crew of the Hawaii longline fisheries that supported the observers, Oikonos and Shannon Fitzgerald, Bill Walker, and Hannah Nevins, in particular, for facilitating sampling of salvaged Laysan albatross. We acknowledge the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (Division of Forestry and Wildlife) and the Kaua`i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project for facilitating sampling of salvaged Newell’s shearwaters. Funding was generously provided by the National Science Foundation DEB 0,745,604, Michigan State University, and the Wetmore Fund of the Bird Division, Smithsonian Institution.

Author contribution statement

KEM, PHO, HFJ, and AEW formulated the idea. KEM, PHO, and SR wrote the manuscript. All authors engaged in intellectual exchange and manuscript editing. KEM, PHO, YC, and HG developed methodology and performed laboratory analyses. SR and KEM performed statistical analyses. AR and JB facilitated access to salvaged birds. KEM, AEW, HFJ, AR, and PHO collected samples.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

442_2018_4330_MOESM1_ESM.docx (32 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 31 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Low Temperature ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  3. 3.Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and TechnologyYokosukaJapan
  4. 4.Department of Vertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA
  5. 5.Hubbs-SeaWorld Research InstituteMelbourne BeachUSA
  6. 6.Department of BiologyUniversity of AkronAkronUSA
  7. 7.Kaua`i Endangered Seabird Recovery ProjectKauaiUSA
  8. 8.Oikonos Ecosystem KnowledgeSanta CruzUSA

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