Marine Ornithology

FORAGING ECOLOGY OF RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD PHAETHON AETHEREUS IN THE CARIBBEAN DURING EARLY CHICK REARING REVEALED BY GPS TRACKING

Investigating the foraging patterns of tropical seabirds can provide important information about their ocean habitat affinities as well as prey choice. Foraging studies of Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus populations in the Caribbean are lacking. We sought to rectify this by opportunistically sampling regurgitates at nest sites on the island of St. Eustatius, Lesser Antilles, and by linking the GPS tracks of foraging adults to remotely sensed environmental variables. Diet samples were dominated by Exocoetidae (59.5%) and Belonidae (14.9%), although we were unable to identify 25.5% of samples due to digestion. Tropicbirds nesting on St. Eustatius exhibited diurnal foraging patterns, foraged in deeper waters with higher chlorophyll concentration, and consumed fewer Exocoetidae species compared to travelling behaviour. The maximum distance travelled from the colony was 953.7 km, with an average trip length of 176.8 (± 249.8) km. The biologged birds crossed multiple exclusive economic zones and marine protected areas, and on that basis, we suggest that efforts to protect and conserve this species may require transboundary collaboration throughout the wider Caribbean.

Date
2022
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
St. Eustatius

Foraging ecology of red-billed tropicbrid phaethon aethereus in the Caribbean during early chick rearing revealed by GPS tracking

Investigating the foraging patterns of tropical seabirds can provide important information about their ocean habitat affinities as well as prey choice. Foraging studies of Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus populations in the Caribbean are lacking. We sought to rectify this by opportunistically sampling regurgitates at nest sites on the island of St. Eustatius, Lesser Antilles, and by linking the GPS tracks of foraging adults to remotely sensed environmental variables. Diet samples were dominated by Exocoetidae (59.5%) and Belonidae (14.9%), although we were unable to identify 25.5% of samples due to digestion. Tropicbirds nesting on St. Eustatius exhibited diurnal foraging patterns, foraged in deeper waters with higher chlorophyll concentration, and consumed fewer Exocoetidae species compared to travelling behaviour. The maximum distance travelled from the colony was 953.7 km, with an average trip length of 176.8 (± 249.8) km. The biologged birds crossed multiple exclusive economic zones and marine protected areas, and on that basis, we suggest that efforts to protect and conserve this species may require transboundary collaboration throughout the wider Caribbean.

Date
2022
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
St. Eustatius

First evidence of plastic ingestion by Red-billed Tropicbirds Phaethon aethereus from St. Eustatius, Caribbean Netherlands

We present the first confirmed evidence of plastic ingestion by a Red-billed Tropicbird on the Caribbean Netherlands island of St. Eustatius, which supports a regionally important nesting population. With our observations, all species of tropicbird have now been documented ingesting marine plastic pollution.

 

Date
2020
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
St. Eustatius

A review of records of the Black-capped Petrel Pterodroma hasitata in the Caribbean Sea

The Black-capped Petrel Pterodroma hasitata is a pelagic seabird with a dangerously small population size. Remaining breeding sites are threatened by habitat loss, introduced predators, and direct harvesting. The species likely also faces several threats at sea, but because knowledge of its distribution range and ecology is meagre at best, it is challenging to take concerted action to improve its conservation status. The species is currently known to breed only on Hispaniola (in the northern Caribbean Sea), but most at-sea observations are from the Florida Current and the Gulf Stream off the southeastern coast of the USA. Within the Caribbean Sea, observations are scarce. We compiled a database of at-sea sightings of Black-capped Petrels in the Caribbean Sea from 1953 to 2018 by thoroughly reviewing published and unpublished records (Appendix 1); here, we add to the literature 12 new records from a research cruise conducted in February 2018 across the Caribbean Sea. Our database was augmented with recently published information from three birds that were fitted with tracking devices. Based on the collected information, we argue that the existing distribution maps of Black-capped Petrels need adjustments. We show that Black-capped Petrels have been recorded throughout the central parts of the Caribbean, from the known breeding sites in the north down to coastal waters off Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela. However, the birds probably forage only in small parts of the Caribbean Sea (i.e., the coastal upwelling zones off Hispaniola and Cuba in the north and off the South American mainland in the south). The waters in between (i.e., in the central Caribbean Sea) appear to be mainly used as a corridor, while the eastern and western parts are unimportant. This indicates that certain hotspots within the Caribbean Sea may be more important to this endangered species than previously thought.

Date
2019
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Document
Geographic location
Aruba
Bonaire
Curacao
Saba
Saba bank
St. Maarten

Caribbean Audubon's shearwaters puffinus Lherminieri choose nesting locations that improve male and female pre-laying exodus foraging strategies

This study aims to better understand how the nesting distribution of Audubon’s Shearwaters Puffinus lherminieri in the Caribbean is associated with the location of predictable ocean fronts, in turn reflecting the different foraging strategies employed by males and females during their pre-laying exodus. The study compares the spatial distribution of bathymetric features — generators of fronts — relative to the pre-laying exodus foraging areas of male and female shearwaters in 89 known nesting locations and in a control group of 5 621 remaining islands in the Caribbean. For each location, the density of potential locations within the foraging radius of males (270 km) and females (270– 850 km) was calculated by geographic information system (GIS) analysis. Foraging sites for males tended to be more densely aggregated and those for females less densely aggregated when compared with the controls, but, for both, a correlation between the proximity of nesting locations and likely frontal regions was clear. These data indicate that nesting locations appear to be associated with predictable thermal fronts. This strategy improves the shearwaters’ access to food sources during the pre-laying exodus. 

Date
2017
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Document