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Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 156, Issue 4, pp 955–962 | Cite as

Wanderer of the deepest seas: migratory behaviour and distribution of the highly pelagic Bulwer’s petrel

  • Maria P. Dias
  • Maria Alho
  • José P. Granadeiro
  • Paulo Catry
Original Article

Abstract

Small-sized nocturnal Procellariiformes are abundant predators in oceanic areas worldwide and are thought to play an important role in many marine food webs as consumers of superabundant mesopelagic prey. However, the spatial ecology and foraging behaviour of the great majority of these species remain largely unknown. We studied the non-breeding distribution and at-sea activity of a migratory small-sized Procellariiform, the Bulwer’s petrels Bulweria bulwerii, from the Selvagem Island colony (subtropical Northeast Atlantic). We found that soon after breeding Bulwer’s petrels migrate towards deep (mean depth of 4416 m), open oceanic waters of the tropical Atlantic, spending the winter far from shelf and shelf-break areas, on regions avoided by most other avian migrants in the Atlantic. When at sea, Bulwer’s petrels spent more time flying during the night (>90 %, all year round) than any other seabird studied so far. This nighttime activity was not influenced by the lunar cycle, suggesting that this highly specialised nocturnal seabird is probably very well adapted to locating and capturing prey even in very dark conditions. The results from the present study may have important implications for the identification of important bird areas in the marine realm, whose boundaries have been delineated so far mostly on the basis of the distribution and behaviour of better studied medium- to large-sized seabirds.

Keywords

At-sea activity Bulwer’s petrels Migration Procellariiformes Seabirds 

Zusammenfassung

Wanderer über der Tiefsee: Zugverhalten und Verbreitung des hochgradig pelagischen Bulwersturmvogels

Kleine nachtaktive Röhrennasenarten (Procellariiformes) sind häufige Prädatoren ozeanischer Lebensräume weltweit und spielen als Konsumenten der reichlichst vorhandenen mesopelagischen Beutetiere vermutlich eine wichtige Rolle in vielen marinen Nahrungsnetzen. Allerdings sind die Raumnutzungsökologie und das Nahrungssuchverhalten der allermeisten dieser Arten noch weitestgehend unbekannt. Wir untersuchten die Verbreitung außerhalb der Brutzeit sowie die Aktivität auf See bei einer ziehenden kleinen Röhrennasenart, dem Bulwersturmvogel Bulweria bulwerii, anhand der Kolonie auf der Insel Selvagem (Portugal) im subtropischen Nordostatlantik. Wir stellten fest, dass die Bulwersturmvögel kurz nach dem Ende der Brutzeit zu tiefen (mittlere Tiefe 4.416 m), offenen ozeanischen Gewässern des tropischen Atlantiks aufbrechen und den Winter fern von Schelf- und Schelfrandbereichen verbringen, in Gebieten, die von den meisten anderen Zugvögeln des Atlantiks gemieden werden. Waren sie über dem Meer, verbrachten die Bulwersturmvögel mehr Zeit mit nächtlichen Flügen (ganzjährig >90 %) als alle anderen bislang untersuchten Seevögel. Diese nächtliche Aktivität wurde nicht von der Mondphase beeinflusst, was nahelegt, dass dieser hochspezialisierte nachtaktive Seevogel vermutlich sehr gut daran angepasst ist, seine Beute selbst unter sehr dunklen Bedingungen zu entdecken und zu fangen. Die Ergebnisse der vorliegenden Studie könnten weitreichende Konsequenzen für die Ausweisung von Vogelschutzgebieten (Important Bird Areas, IBAs) im marinen Bereich haben, deren Grenzen bisher hauptsächlich auf der Grundlage von Verbreitung und Verhalten der besser untersuchten mittelgroßen bis großen Seevögel festgelegt wurden.

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study was funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT, Portugal) and the European Regional Development Fund through the PTDC/MAR/121071/2010 and PEst-OE/MAR/UI0331/2011 projects and a postdoctoral fellowship (MD; FCT-BPD/46827/08). Serviço do Parque Natural da Madeira (Paulo Oliveira, Dília Menezes, Carolina Santos, Jaques da Mata and Clemente Abreu) provided permission and logistic support to work on Selvagem Grande. Teresa Catry, Silke Waap, Hany Alonso, Letízia Campioni, Pedro Lourenço, Maria Pinto, Cristobal Pérez and Rui Rebelo helped with fieldwork.

All work was approved by the relevant authorities (Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e da Biodiversidade and Serviço do Parque Natural da Madeira; research permits 107/2006, 116/2007 and 107/2010/CAPT) and carried out in compliance with current Portuguese laws.

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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria P. Dias
    • 1
    • 2
  • Maria Alho
    • 3
  • José P. Granadeiro
    • 4
  • Paulo Catry
    • 1
  1. 1.MARE-Marine and Environmental Sciences CentreISPA-Instituto UniversitárioLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.BirdLife InternationalWellbrook CourtCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Departmento de Biologia AnimalFaculdade de Ciências da Universidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  4. 4.Departamento de Biologia Animal, Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do MarFaculdade de Ciências da Universidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal

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