Trans-equatorial migration and mixing in the wintering areas of a pelagic seabird
Despite increasing interest in long-distance migration, the wintering areas, migration corridors, and population mix in winter quarters of most pelagic marine predators are unknown. Here, we present the first study tracking migration movements of shearwaters through the non-breeding period. We used geolocators (global location sensing [GLS] units based on ambient light levels) to track 22 Cory's shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) breeding in three different areas. Most birds wintered in one or more of three relatively small areas, all clearly associated with major coastal upwelling systems of the tropical anal south Atlantic. Trans-equatorial movements were dominated by prevailing trade winds and westerlies, while calm, oligotrophic areas were avoided. Breeding populations clearly differed in their preference amongst the three major wintering areas, but showed substantial mixing. This illustrates the exceptional value of GLS, not only for determining and describing the influence of oceanographic features on migration patterns, but also for assessing population mix in winter quarters. This knowledge is essential to understanding the impacts of population-level threats, such as longlining, offshore windfarms, and oil spills on multiple breeding sites, and will be critical in devising conservation policies that guarantee the sustainable exploitation of the oceans.
Authors: González-Solís, Jacob, Croxall, John P., Oro, Daniel, Ruiz, Xavier