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From route to dive: multi-scale habitat selection in a foraging tropical seabird

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Ruth E. Dunn
  • Robin Freeman
  • Malcolm A. Nicoll
  • Julia Ramsden
  • Alice M. Trevail
  • Hannah Wood
  • Stephen C. Votier
Article number124
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/06/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Marine Biology
Issue number6
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date2/05/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Comprehending how environmental variability shapes foraging behaviour across habitats is key to unlocking insights into consumer ecology. Seabirds breeding at high latitudes are exemplars of how marine consumers can adapt their behaviours to make use of predictable foraging opportunities, but prey tends to be less predictable in tropical oceanic ecosystems and may require alternative foraging behaviours. Here we used GPS and time-depth recorder loggers to investigate the foraging behaviour of central placed adult red-footed boobies (Sula sula rubripes), a tropical seabird that forages in oceanic waters via diving, or by capturing aerial prey such as flying fish in flight. Dive bout dynamics revealed that red-footed boobies appeared to exploit denser, but more sparsely distributed prey patches when diving further from the colony. Furthermore, although we found no evidence of environmentally driven habitat selection along their foraging routes, red-footed boobies preferentially dived in areas with higher sea surface temperatures and chlorophyll-a concentrations compared to conditions along their foraging tracks. This multi-scale variation implies that habitat selection differs between foraging routes compared to dive locations. Finally, red-footed booby dives were deepest during the middle of the day when light penetration was greatest. Ultimately, we highlight the importance of gaining insights into consumer foraging across different ecosystems, thereby broadening understanding of how animals might respond to changing environmental conditions.