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Title: Foraging strategies of Southern Royal Albatrosses, Diomedea epomophora, Campbell Island during incubation
Author: Troup, Christina
Degree: Master of Applied Science
Institution: Lincoln University
Date: 2004
Item Type: Thesis
Abstract: Among the species of Diomedea albatrosses, diverse foraging strategies during breeding have been described, indicating species differences in foraging ecology and behaviour. Foraging strategies of Southern Royal Albatrosses, Diomedea epomophora (SRA) breeding on Campbell Island were studied in January – early February 1999 during the latter half of incubation. Movements and activity of ten birds were monitored using satellite transmitters and wet-dry activity recorders. Three birds from a pilot tracking study in February 1997 were also included in some analyses. Foraging strategies, zones used, factors influencing the duration of foraging trips, and the influence of wind conditions were investigated. Foraging activity took place at sites with bathymetric characteristics associated with high productivity: outer shelf and shelf-break zones, with a concentration of activity on a shelf contour south of the Snares Islands. This is in contrast to Wandering (D. exulans) and Gibson’s (D. gibsoni) albatrosses, typically deep oceanic foragers, but is similar to Northern Royal Albatross (D. sanfordi). The maximum distance of foraging trips from the colony was 1250 kilometres (mean 584 +351(SD)). This was closer than for incubating Wandering and Gibson’s Albatrosses but more distant than for Northern Royal Albatross from the Otago Peninsula. The mean duration of 77 foraging trips from 52 nests was 10.11 days for females and 8.76 for males (ns). Foraging trips became shorter as incubation progressed. Foraging trips were shorter, but not significantly so, when the median wind speed throughout the foraging trip was higher. No significant relationship was found between bird mass and duration of foraging trips. The mean cumulative distance flown by the ten birds tracked in 1999 was 4262 km + 1318 (SD). Eight of the ten SRA employed a ‘commute, forage, commute’ foraging strategy, and the other two alternated short bouts of commuting and foraging. Commuting phases were characterised by rapid directional flight with a straight-line distance (range) of 180 km to 800 km between positions 24 hours apart. Foraging phases were characterised by a range of less than 180 km per 24 hour interval and frequent tight turns. Displacement rate between successive uplinks was significantly higher during commuting phases (28.6 kph + 1.93 SE) than foraging phases (15.1 kph + 1.4 SE). Wind strength and direction influenced the timing of the return commute to the colony. SRA covered greater distances at more favourable wind angles relative to flight track (broad reach and close reach) than in head, tail or direct side winds. Birds of low mass (< 8kg) made fewer landings in winds above 40 kph than in lighter winds, whereas heavier birds had a similar level of landing activity across all wind speed bands. One bird was delayed for several days by light winds, and another flew off course during strong winds. Two birds exploited the same window of wind conditions to return to the colony, each flying a similar course in both timing and route. These results define the foraging strategies of SRA during incubation, and demonstrate the influence of wind conditions and other factors on the overall duration of foraging trips and on the timing of commuting and foraging phases.
Supervisor: Paterson, Adrian
Wilson, Kerry-Jayne
Persistent URL (URI):
Appears in Collections:Masters Theses
Department of Ecology

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