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Colony attendance patterns by mated Forster's Terns Sterna forsteri using an automated data-logging receiver system

January 1, 2010

In order to examine 24-hour colony attendance patterns by mated Forster's Terns Sterna forsteri in South San Francisco Bay, California, during incubation and chick-rearing stages, we radio-marked 10 individuals consisting of five pairs and recorded colony attendance using an automated data-logging receiver system. We calculated and analyzed five variables: the total attendance time by pairs and individuals, the duration of individual attendance bouts, and the duration both members of a pair either overlapped in colony attendance or were both absent from the colony. The percentage of time spent on the colony by at least one individual of a pair was highest during incubation and declined during chick rearing. Overall, male terns spent a greater proportion of time diurnally attending the colony than females. Females spent a greater proportion of time on colony at night, and without these nocturnal records, we would have reported overall female colony attendance rates as being much lower. Despite sex-specific differences in attendance rates, the length of attendance bouts did not differ between the sexes. Simultaneous colony attendance by both members of a pair was high at night, but during the day, pairs infrequently overlapped in their colony attendance and both members were frequently absent. Our datalogging system functioned well, and our data illustrates the importance of collecting 24-hour records when considering attendance rates.