Biology Bulletin

, Volume 45, Issue 9, pp 983–999 | Cite as

Manipulation and Investigation Activity in Seabirds: Behavioral Response to Artificial Objects Exposed to a Colony

  • S. P. KharitonovEmail author


This study was conducted in 1987–1988 and 2008 on Talan Island (59°20′ N, 146°05′ E), Sea of Okhotsk; in 2005 and 2011 on the Medvezhii Island (74°23′ N, 19°02′ E), Svalbard; and in 2009 on Saint Jonah (Iony) Island (56°24′ N, 143°23′ E), Sea of Okhotsk. Seabirds demonstrated interest in some small objects that concerned neither their life nor reproduction. To study this feature in natural conditions, we performed 64 experiments with crested auklets (Aethia cristatella), 47 with little auks (Alle alle), 15 experiments with other alcids, and one with a representative of Procellariiforms, the Northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis). Birds paid extra attention to small objects that stood out against the natural background. They tried to investigate these objects in visual and tactile ways. This feature was more prominent in such highly social seabirds as little auks and crested auklets. Crested auklets definitely preferred white or yellow objects. Reactions to orange or green objects were considerable as well. Birds preferred brighter objects even if they were of an unusual color. Brighter objects stimulated auklet responses to nearby less bright objects. More complicated objects were preferred over simple ones. Little auks in the experiments with a full range of colors in similar objects definitely preferred white ones. In the experiments with similar objects of colors other than white, auks first manipulated the nearest object of any color. Little auks tried to touch and manipulate objects, but paid less attention to their color and shape than crested auklets did. Objects artificially covered with substances with a heavy odor or a spicy taste were not an obstacle to сrested auklets if they wanted to manipulate these objects. Little auks ceased attempts at manipulating objects smelling of menthol.

Keywords: alcids crested auklet little auk investigation behavior manipulation activity color preference odors 



The author thanks the employees of the Institute of Biological Problems of the North, Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences (Magadan): A.Ya. Kondrat’ev, A.S. Kitaiskii, A.V. Andreev, and E.V. Golubova, as well as V.A. Zubakin from the Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences; Hallvard Strom, an employee at the Polar Institute, Tromsö, Norway; and S.A. Chel’tsov, participant of expeditions to Medvezhii Island, Svalbard. Without their help and support, this study would have been impossible. The author is also deeply grateful to Z.A. Zorina, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor, Head of the Laboratory of Physiology and Genetics of Behavior, Faculty of Biology, Moscow State University, for the in-depth discussion of the material and very valuable comments, which greatly improved the paper.


Conflict of interests. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Statement on the welfare of animals. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


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© Pleiades Publishing, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bird Ringing Center of Russia, Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Joint Directorate of Taimyr Nature ReservesNorilskRussia

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