Short- and long-term consistency in the foraging niche of wandering albatrosses
The wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) is regarded as a generalist predator, but can it be consistent in its foraging niche at an individual level? This study tested short- and long-term consistency in the foraging niche in terms of habitat use, trophic level and, by inference, prey selection. Fieldwork was carried out at Bird Island, South Georgia, in May–October 2009, during the chick-rearing period. Blood (plasma and cells) and feathers for stable isotope analyses (δ13C and δ15N) were sampled from 35 adults on their return from a foraging trip during which they carried stomach temperature, activity and global positioning system loggers. Results suggest short-term consistency in foraging niche in relation to both oceanic water mass and trophic level, and long-term consistency in use of habitat. Consistent differences between individuals partly reflected sex-specific habitat preferences. The proportion of consistent individuals (i.e., with a narrow foraging niche) was estimated at c. 40 % for short-term habitat and trophic level (prey) preferences and 29 % for longer-term habitat preference, suggesting this is an important characteristic of this population and potentially of pelagic seabirds in general. Foraging consistency was not related to body condition or level of breeding experience; instead, it may reduce intraspecific competition.
Authors: Ceia, Filipe R., Phillips, Richard A., Ramos, Jaime A., Cherel, Yves, Vieira, Rui P., Richard, Pierre, Xavier, José C.