Consistent variation in individual migration strategies of brown skuas
Seabirds show remarkable variability in migration strategies among individuals and populations. In this study, we analysed 47 migrations of 28 brown skuas Catharacta antarctica lonnbergi breeding on King George Island in the Maritime Antarctic. Brown skuas from this population used a large area during the non-breeding period north of 55°S, including parts of the Patagonian Shelf, Argentine Basin and South Brazil Shelf, areas which are characterised by high levels of marine productivity. However, individual birds utilised only a subset of these areas, adopting 1 of 4 distinct migration strategies to which they were highly faithful between years, and showed high repeatability in departure and arrival dates at the breeding ground. Although they spent the majority of the non-breeding season within a particular region, almost all individuals used the same area in the late winter, exploiting its seasonal peak in productivity. Overall, these results indicate consistent individual variation in migration strategies that may reflect a combination of genetic control and individual experience, but with considerable flexibility to shift distribution in response to prevailing environmental conditions.
Authors: Krietsch, Johannes, Hahn, Steffen, Kopp, Mathias, Phillips, Richard A., Peter, Hans-Ulrich, Lisovski, Simeon