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Foraging niche overlap during chick-rearing in the sexually dimorphic Westland petrel

Citation

Poupart, Timothee; Waugh, Susan; Kato, Akiko; Arnould, John (2020), Foraging niche overlap during chick-rearing in the sexually dimorphic Westland petrel, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.w9ghx3fmf

Abstract

Most Procellariform seabirds are pelagic, breed in summer when prey availability peaks, and migrate for winter. They also display a dual foraging strategy (short and long trips) and sex-specific foraging. The Westland petrel Procellaria westlandica, a New Zealand endemic, is one of the rare seabirds breeding in winter. Preliminary findings on this large and sexually-dimorphic petrel suggest a foraging with no evidence of a dual strategy, within a narrow range and with shared areas between sexes. To investigate further this unusual strategy, the present study determined the fine-scale at-sea behaviours (GPS and accelerometer data loggers) and trophic niches (stable isotopes in whole blood) of chick-rearing individuals (16 males, 13 females). All individuals foraged on the shelf slope of the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island with short, unimodal trips. Both sexes foraged at similar intensity without temporal, spatial or isotopic niche segregation. These findings suggest the presence of a winter prey resource close to the colony, sufficient to satisfy the nutritional needs of breeding without intra-specific competition avoidance or increased foraging effort. Additional data are needed to assess the consistency of foraging niche between the sexes and its reproductive outcomes in view of anticipated environmental changes.

Methods

Individuals were caught in accessible burrow nests (one individual per nest), weighed and equipped with data loggers. Then, the occupancy of these nests was checked until the return of the equipped individuals. At recapture, the data loggers were retrieved, and the individual weighed again, morphometrics and blood sample taken (whole blood stored in 70% ethanol, for stable isotopes analysis and genetic sexing).

Usage Notes

This study investigated the foraging niche of dimorphic males and females Westland petrel during the chick-rearing period. At-sea movements were recorded with GPS, behaviours and foraging behaviour were recorded with accelerometers, and trophic niche was inferred with stable isotopes (carbon, nitrogen). Altogether, these fine-scale data allowed to look at the foraging niche used by males and females.

The metada from the birds are provided in the uploaded file “Westland petrels individuals metadata”, and the parameters of the tracks in the file “Westland petrel tracks parameters”. The way the combined GPS and accelerometer data were analysed is described in the uploaded file “GPS and accelerometer data code”.