Bird tracking aids seabird research

August 19, 2015, British Antarctic Survey
Bird tracking aids seabird research
Credit: University of Edinburgh

A two year study of shags on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve in Scotland reveals that when winds are strong, female birds take much longer to find food compared with males.

Reporting in the Journal of Animal Ecology scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) describe how they used loggers designed by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) to track the feeding trips of 75 of one of the UK's most common seabirds. The team found that , being smaller and lighter than the , have to work harder to dive through turbulent water to catch fish. If future climate predictions, which forecast stronger winds, are correct then researchers suggest that this could affect the number of breeding birds.

Richard Phillips, a senior bird ecologist at BAS, says:

"We fitted tiny loggers to 88 birds and were able to recover data from 75 of them. Each logger captured information about the timings of landings and take-offs in saltwater, and from this we can calculate foraging time. There was a marked difference between males and females in their response to poor weather conditions was. It is likely that in a future climate change scenario where there is an increase in storms that the ability of each sex to cope in these conditions will be different."

Scientists say their findings may apply to other species where there are differences between the sexes in foraging capabilities.

Dr. Sue Lewis, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, led the research: "In our study, females had to work harder than males to find food, and difficult conditions exacerbated this difference. Forecasted increases in wind speeds could have a greater impact on females, with potential knock-on effects on the well-beings of populations."

Explore further: Worsening wind forecasts signal stormy times ahead for seabirds

Related Stories

Age doesn't matter for foraging albatrosses

February 17, 2015

A new study of the wandering albatrosses breeding on the sub-antarctic island of Bird Island (off South Georgia) reveals that age doesn't matter when foraging. The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE last month, shows ...

DNA which only females have

June 4, 2015

In many animal species, the chromosomes differ between the sexes. The male has a Y chromosome. In some animals, however, for example birds, it is the other way round. In birds, the females have their own sex chromosome, the ...

Recommended for you

Climate change not main driver of amphibian decline

September 25, 2018

While a warming climate in recent decades may be a factor in the waning of some local populations of frogs, toads, newts and salamanders, it cannot explain the overall steep decline of amphibians, according to researchers.

Built-in sound amplifier helps male mosquitoes find females

September 25, 2018

The ears of male mosquitoes amplify the sound of an approaching female using a self-generated phantom tone that mimics the female's wingbeats, which increases the ear's acoustic input by a factor of up to 45,000, finds a ...

The grim, final days of a mother octopus

September 25, 2018

Octopuses are the undisputed darlings of the science internet, and for good reason. They're incredibly intelligent problem-solvers and devious escape artists with large, complex nervous systems. They have near-magical abilities ...

Team discovers new species of dazzling, neon-colored fish

September 25, 2018

On a recent expedition to the remote Brazilian archipelago of St. Paul's Rocks, a new species of reef fish—striped a vivid pink and yellow—enchanted its diving discoverers from the California Academy of Sciences. First ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.