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Concept: Shearwater


Anthropogenic debris in the world’s oceans and coastal environments is a pervasive global issue that has both direct and indirect impacts on avifauna. The number of bird species affected, the feeding ecologies associated with an increased risk of debris ingestion, and selectivity of ingested debris have yet to be investigated in most of Australia’s coastal and marine birds. With this study we aim to address the paucity of data regarding marine debris ingestion in Australian coastal and marine bird species. We investigated which Australian bird groups ingest marine debris, and whether debris-ingesting groups exhibit selectivity associated with their taxonomy, habitat or foraging methods. Here we present the largest multispecies study of anthropogenic debris ingestion in Australasian avifauna to date. We necropsied and investigated the gastrointestinal contents of 378 birds across 61 species, collected dead across eastern Australia. These species represented nine taxonomic orders, five habitat groups and six feeding strategies. Among investigated species, thirty percent had ingested debris, though ingestion did not occur uniformly within the orders of birds surveyed. Debris ingestion was found to occur in orders Procellariiformes, Suliformes, Charadriiformes and Pelecaniformes, across all surveyed habitats, and among birds that foraged by surface feeding, pursuit diving and search-by-sight. Procellariiformes, birds in pelagic habitats, and surface feeding marine birds ingested debris with the greatest frequency. Among birds which were found to ingest marine debris, we investigated debris selectivity and found that marine birds were selective with respect to both type and colour of debris. Selectivity for type and colour of debris significantly correlated with taxonomic order, habitat and foraging strategy. This study highlights the significant impact of feeding ecology on debris ingestion among Australia’s avifauna.

Concepts: Eating, Ingestion, Bird, Albatross, Seabird, Penguin, Procellariiformes, Shearwater


Olfactory cues have been shown to be important to homing petrels at night, but apparently those procellariiform species that also come back to the colony during the day are not impaired by smell deprivation. However, the nycthemeral distribution of homing, i.e. whether displaced birds released at night return to their burrow by night or during daylight, has never been investigated. To explore this question, we studied the homing behaviour of Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris borealis) in the only known population where these birds are active at the colony both during the day and the night. Here, we compared the nocturnal versus diurnal homing schedule of birds treated with zinc sulphate to induce a reversible but complete anosmia, to that of controls. Our results show that anosmic shearwaters were unable to home in the dark and were constrained to wait for the daylight to find their burrow again. Our results confirm that olfaction is the basic sensory input for homing by night even in a petrel species that is diurnally active at the colony.

Concepts: Bird, Olfaction, Seabird, Procellariiformes, Petrel, Puffinus, Shearwater, Calonectris


Studies on the parasitic fauna of migratory sea birds of the Puffinus genus are scarce. Therefore, the aim of this study was to identify parasites of 16 specimens of Puffinus puffinus (Procellariiformes, Procellariidae) that died during the period of June 2011 to December 2011 at the Wildlife Screening Center (CETAS) of the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA) in Cabedelo, Paraíba. During necropsy, biting lice and/or gastrointestinal helminths were collected in seven (43.7 %) birds. Lice were collected in five (31.2 %) birds, and the species identified were Halipeurus diversus, Trabeculus aviator, Austromenopon paululum), Saemundssonia sp. and Naubates sp. The prevalence of helminths was also 31.2 %. The nematodes species were Seuratia shipleyi and Contracaecum sp., and cestodes were Tetrabothrius sp. This is the first record in Brazil of Naubates sp., Seuratia shipleyi, Contracaecum sp., and Tetrabothrius sp. in Puffinus puffinus.

Concepts: Conservation biology, Bird, Albatross, Seabird, Brazil, Shearwater, Procellariidae, Manx Shearwater


Fisheries provide an abundant and predictable food source for many pelagic seabirds through discards, but also pose a major threat to them through bycatch, threatening their populations worldwide. The reform of the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which intends to ban discards through the landing obligation of all catches, may force seabirds to seek alternative food sources, such as baited hooks from longlines, increasing bycatch rates. To test this hypothesis we performed a combined analysis of seabird-fishery interactions using as a model Scopoli’s shearwaters Calonectris diomedea in the Mediterranean. Tracking data showed that the probability of shearwaters attending longliners increased exponentially with a decreasing density of trawlers. On-board observations and mortality events corroborated this result: the probability of birds attending longliners increased 4% per each trawler leaving the longliner proximity and bird mortality increased tenfold when trawlers were not operating. Therefore, the implementation of the landing obligation in EU waters will likely cause a substantial increase in bycatch rates in longliners, at least in the short-term, due to birds switching from trawlers to longliners. Thus the implementation of the landing obligation must be carefully monitored and counterbalanced with an urgent implementation of bycatch mitigation measures in the longline fleet.

Concepts: Bird, Albatross, Seabird, Procellariiformes, Shearwater, Procellariidae, Cory's Shearwater, Longline fishing


Light pollution and its consequences on ecosystems are increasing worldwide. Knowledge on the threshold levels of light pollution at which significant ecological impacts emerge and the size of dark refuges to maintain natural nocturnal processes is crucial to mitigate its negative consequences. Seabird fledglings are attracted by artificial lights when they leave their nest at night, causing high mortality. We used GPS data-loggers to track the flights of Cory’s shearwater Calonectris diomedea fledglings from nest-burrows to ground, and to evaluate the light pollution levels of overflown areas on Tenerife, Canary Islands, using nocturnal, high-resolution satellite imagery. Birds were grounded at locations closer than 16 km from colonies in their maiden flights, and 50% were rescued within a 3 km radius from the nest-site. Most birds left the nests in the first three hours after sunset. Rescue locations showed radiance values greater than colonies, and flight distance was positively related to light pollution levels. Breeding habitat alteration by light pollution was more severe for inland colonies. We provide scientific-based information to manage dark refuges facilitating that fledglings from inland colonies reach the sea successfully. We also offer methodological approaches useful for other critically threatened petrel species grounded by light pollution.

Concepts: Bird, Seabird, Procellariiformes, Petrel, Shearwater, Procellariidae, Cory's Shearwater, Calonectris


Seabirds are colonial vertebrates that despite their great potential for long-range dispersal and colonization are reluctant to establish in novel locations, often recruiting close to their natal colony. The foundation of colonies is therefore a rare event in most seabird species and little is known about the colonization process in this group. The Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) is a pelagic seabird that has recently established three new colonies in Galicia (NE Atlantic) thus expanding its distribution range 500 km northwards. This study aimed to describe the establishment and early progress of the new Galician populations and to determine the genetic and morphometric characteristics of the individuals participating in these foundation events. Using 10 microsatellite loci, we tested the predictions supported by different seabird colonization models. Possibly three groups of non-breeders, adding up to around 200 birds, started visiting the Galician colonies in the mid 2000’s and some of them eventually laid eggs and reproduced, thus establishing new breeding colonies. The Galician populations showed a high genetic diversity and a frequency of private alleles similar to or even higher than some of the large historical populations. Most individuals were assigned to several Atlantic populations and a few (if any) to Mediterranean colonies. Our study suggests that a large and admixed population is settling in Galicia, in agreement with predictions from island metapopulation models of colonization. Multiple source colonies imply that some birds colonizing Galicia were dispersing from very distant colonies (> 1500 km). Long-distance colonizations undertaken by relatively large and admixed groups of colonizers can help to explain the low levels of genetic structure over vast areas that are characteristic of most oceanic seabird species.

Concepts: Bird, Seabird, Colonialism, Procellariiformes, Shearwater, Procellariidae, Cory's Shearwater, Calonectris


Understanding the behaviour of animals in the wild is fundamental to conservation efforts. Advances in bio-logging technologies have offered insights into the behaviour of animals during foraging, migration and social interaction. However, broader application of these systems has been limited by device mass, cost and longevity. Here, we use information from multiple logger types to predict individual behaviour in a highly pelagic, migratory seabird, the Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus). Using behavioural states resolved from GPS tracking of foraging during the breeding season, we demonstrate that individual behaviours can be accurately predicted during multi-year migrations from low cost, lightweight, salt-water immersion devices. This reveals a complex pattern of migratory stopovers: some involving high proportions of foraging, and others of rest behaviour. We use this technique to examine three consecutive years of global migrations, revealing the prominence of foraging behaviour during migration and the importance of highly productive waters during migratory stopover.

Concepts: Bird, Seabird, Behavior, Puffinus, Shearwater, Procellariidae, Manx Shearwater


Compass orientation is central to the control of animal movement from the scale of local food-caching movements around a familiar area in parids [1] and corvids [2, 3] to the first autumn vector navigation of songbirds embarking on long-distance migration [4-6]. In the study of diurnal birds, where the homing pigeon, Columba livia, has been the main model, a time-compensated sun compass [7] is central to the two-step map-and-compass process of navigation from unfamiliar places, as well as guiding movement via a representation of familiar area landmarks [8-12]. However, its use by an actively navigating wild bird is yet to be shown. By phase shifting an animal’s endogenous clock, known as clock-shifting [13-15], sun-compass use can be demonstrated when the animal incorrectly consults the sun’s azimuthal position while homing after experimental displacement [15-17]. By applying clock-shift techniques at the nest of a wild bird during natural incubation, we show here that an oceanic navigator-the Manx shearwater, Puffinus puffinus-incorporates information from a time-compensated sun compass during homeward guidance to the breeding colony after displacement. Consistently with homing pigeons navigating within their familiar area [8, 9, 11, 18], we find that the effect of clock shift, while statistically robust, is partial in nature, possibly indicating the incorporation of guidance from landmarks into movement decisions.

Concepts: Bird, Seabird, Shearwater, Procellariidae, Columbidae, Domestic Pigeon, Homing pigeon, Manx Shearwater


Artificial lights at night cause high mortality of seabirds, one of the most endangered groups of birds globally. Fledglings of burrow-nesting seabirds, and to a lesser extent adults, are grounded by lights when they fly at night. We review the current state of knowledge of light attraction, identify information gaps and propose measures to address the problem. Although other avian families such as Alcidae and Anatidae can be involved, the most affected seabirds are petrels and shearwaters: at least 56 species, more than one-third of them (24) threatened, are grounded by lights. Grounded seabirds have been found worldwide, mainly on oceanic islands but also at some continental locations. Petrel breeding grounds confined to formerly uninhabited islands are particularly at risk from ever-growing levels of light pollution due to tourism and urban sprawl. Where it is impractical to ban external lights, rescue programs of grounded birds offer the most immediate and extended mitigation measures to reduce light-induced mortality, saving thousands of birds every year. These programs also provide useful information for seabird management. However, the data typically are fragmentary and often strongly biased so the phenomenon is poorly understood, leading to inaccurate impact estimates. We identified as the most urgent priority actions: 1) estimation of mortality and impact on populations; 2) assessment of threshold light levels and safe distances from light sources; 3) documenting the fate of rescued birds; 4) improvement of rescue campaigns, particularly in terms of increasing recovery rates and level of care; and 5) research on seabird-friendly lights to reduce attraction. More research is necessary to improve our understanding of this human-wildlife conflict and to design effective management and mitigation measures. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Bird, Seabird, Lighting, Penguin, Procellariiformes, Petrel, Shearwater, Storm-petrel


Long-lived migratory animals must balance the cost of current reproduction with their own condition ahead of a challenging migration and future reproduction. In these species, carry-over effects, which occur when events in one season affect the outcome of the subsequent season, may be particularly exacerbated. However, how carry-over effects influence future breeding outcomes and whether (and how) they also affect behaviour during migration and wintering is unclear. Here we investigate carry-over effects induced by a controlled, bidirectional manipulation of the duration of reproductive effort on the migratory, wintering and subsequent breeding behaviour of a long-lived migratory seabird, the Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus. By cross-fostering chicks of different age between nests, we successfully prolonged or shortened by ∼25% the chick-rearing period of 42 breeding pairs. We tracked the adults with geolocators over the subsequent year and combined migration route data with at-sea activity budgets obtained from high-resolution saltwater-immersion data. Migratory behaviour was also recorded during non-experimental years (the year before and/or two years after manipulation) for a subset of birds, allowing comparison between experimental and non-experimental years within treatment groups. All birds cared for chicks until normal fledging age, resulting in birds with a longer breeding period delaying their departure on migration; however, birds that finished breeding earlier did not start migrating earlier. Increased reproductive effort resulted in less time spent at the wintering grounds, a reduction in time spent resting daily and a delayed start of breeding with lighter eggs and chicks and lower breeding success the following breeding season. Conversely, reduced reproductive effort resulted in more time resting and less time foraging during the winter, but a similar breeding phenology and success compared with control birds the following year, suggesting that ‘positive’ carry-over effects may also occur but perhaps have a less long-lasting impact than those incurred from increased reproductive effort. Our results shed light on how carry-over effects can develop and modify an adult animal’s behaviour year-round and reveal how a complex interaction between current and future reproductive fitness, individual condition and external constraints can influence life-history decisions.

Concepts: Reproduction, Bird, Seabird, Puffinus, Shearwater, Procellariidae, Bird migration, Manx Shearwater