Data from: Recent prey capture experience and dynamic habitat quality mediate short-term foraging site fidelity in a seabird
Carroll, Gemma et al. (2018), Data from: Recent prey capture experience and dynamic habitat quality mediate short-term foraging site fidelity in a seabird, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.g24c6b6
Foraging site fidelity allows animals to increase their efficiency by returning to profitable feeding areas. However, the mechanisms underpinning why animals “stay” or “switch” sites have rarely been investigated. Here we explore how habitat quality and prior prey capture experience influence short-term site fidelity by the little penguin (Eudyptula minor). Using 88 consecutive foraging trips by 20 brooding penguins, we found that site fidelity was higher after foraging trips where environmental conditions were favourable, and after trips where prey capture success was high. When penguins exhibited lower site fidelity, the number of prey captures relative to the previous trip increased, suggesting that switches in foraging location were an adaptive strategy in response to low prey capture rates. Penguins foraged closer to where other penguins foraged on the same day than they did to the location of their own previous foraging site, and caught more prey when they foraged close together. This suggests that penguins aggregated flexibly when prey was abundant and accessible. Our results illustrate how foraging predators can integrate information about prior experience with contemporary information such as social cues. This gives insight into how animals combine information adaptively to exploit changing prey distribution in a dynamic environment.