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Unusual foraging observations associated with seabird die-offs in Alaska

October 1, 2018

We report the first documentation of off-water foraging by the Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma furcata and Short-tailed Shearwater Ardenna tenuirostris, a behavior not previously documented in any member of the families Hydrobatidae or Procellariidae. Over a two-week period in September 2016, we regularly observed individuals of these species over land on an extensive intertidal zone on the Bristol Bay coast of the Alaska Peninsula. We documented irregular feeding behaviors by storm-petrels, including pattering over shallow water and sand, digging into sand to uncover food items, and feeding on beach-cast fish. We revisited the site in August 2017 and did not observe storm-petrels, but we observed four shearwaters feeding on a beach-cast fish. The aberrant feeding behaviors, paucity of stomach contents and emaciated body condition of salvaged and collected birds, together with patterns between bird occurrence and wind speed and direction, indicate to us that these birds were blown to shore while weakened by food stress or compromised health. We further suggest that these aberrant feeding behaviors may be related to massive seabird die-offs that occurred in this region during 2014–2016, die-offs in which Forktailed Storm-Petrels have heretofore not been reported as a species affected by this phenomenon.

Publication Year 2018
Title Unusual foraging observations associated with seabird die-offs in Alaska
Authors Bryce Robinson, Lucas H. DeCicco, James A. Johnson, Daniel R. Ruthrauff
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Marine Ornithology: Journal of Seabird Research and Conservation
Index ID 70200230
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB