Food, feeding ecology and ecological segregation of seabirds at South Georgia

At the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia 25 of the 29 breeding species are seabirds. Fifteen of these have recently been studied in some detail. By examining the timing of their breeding seasons and their diet and feeding ecology (especially feeding techniques and potential foraging ranges), the nature of their ecological isolating mechanisms, and in particular the way in which they partition the resources of the marine environment, are reviewed. Although breeding season adaptations occur (winter breeding in Wandering Albatross and King Penguin; out of phase breeding in two species-pairs of small petrels) these are less important than dillerences in food and feeding ecology. There is a fundamental distinction between the niche of pursuit-diving species (mainly penguins) and the remainder which are basically surface-feeders. The two abundant krill-eating penguins show clear differences in feeding zones. Three albatrosses and a petrel feed mainly on squid and there are differences in both the species and size of the prey of each. The remaining seabirds chiefly take krill (although the giant petrels are extensive scavengers and some smaller petrels specialize on copepods) and utilize different feeding methods and areas to do so. Various adaptations related to inshore and offshore feeding zones are discussed. Although most species possess a combination of ecological isolating mechanisms additional evidence for the particular importance of dietary differences is presented.


Publication status:
Authors: Croxall, J.P., Prince, P.A.

1 January, 1980
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society / 14
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