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Pre-breeding foraging ecology of three tern species nesting in the Gulf of Maine

April 19, 2022

A variety of seabird species migrate annually from wintering grounds in the Southern Hemisphere to the Gulf of Maine, USA to breed and raise their young. Post-migration, adult seabirds depend on the spatio-temporal match of reliable food resources to replenish energy reserves before breeding. However, the conditions during this critical window of time are becoming increasingly uncertain given the magnitude and pace at which climate change is impacting the Gulf of Maine region. We investigated the pre-breeding foraging ecology of Arctic Terns (Sterna paradisaea), Common Terns (S. hirundo), and the federally endangered Roseate Tern (S. dougallii) by analyzing stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotopes in eggshell tissues collected from seven islands in the Gulf of Maine from 2016 to 2018. Results show at the interspecific level, adult foraging patterns are consistent with expectations based on chick diets. At interisland and interannual scales, variation in isotopic values and niche breadths suggest foraging habits are highly localized. Although uncertainty remains, interannual trends also suggest warmer ocean conditions are either affecting tern foraging behaviors and/or prey resource availability during the late spring and early summer. Overall, results provide new information on adult tern foraging ecology in an important breeding area experiencing rapid environmental change.

Publication Year 2022
Title Pre-breeding foraging ecology of three tern species nesting in the Gulf of Maine
DOI 10.5751/ACE-02112-170119
Authors Rachel M. Bratton, Henry Legett, Paula Shannon, Keenan Yakola, Alexander R. Gerson, Michelle Staudinger
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Avian Conservation and Ecology
Index ID 70230620
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center