South polar skuas from a single breeding population overwinter in different oceans though show similar migration patterns
Seabirds in seasonal environments are often long-distance migrants and, for many species and populations, their ranges throughout the non-breeding period are unknown. As conditions during the non-breeding season often affect subsequent performance, the choice of migration strategy can have major implications for timing of breeding and success and, ultimately, population dynamics. We tracked south polar skuas Catharacta maccormicki from a single breeding population at King George Island in the South Shetland Islands (Antarctica). Overall, 27 birds (69%) migrated to the northern Atlantic (3 regions), 10 birds (26%) to the northern Pacific Ocean (2 regions), and 2 birds wintered in the southern hemisphere. Individuals tracked in consecutive non-breeding seasons chose the same ocean for wintering. Despite migrating to different oceans, birds showed a similar figure-of-eight flight pattern and equivalent residency periods in the main wintering areas. In addition, 87% of the migrants used terminal stop-over sites off South America shortly before returning to the breeding site. High diversity of migration patterns may buffer south polar skuas from climate change and other anthropogenic threats.
Authors: Kopp, Matthias, Peter, Hans-Ulrich, Mustafa, Osama, Lisovski, Simeon, Ritz, Markus S., Phillips, Richard A., Hahn, Steffen