Recent prey capture experience and dynamic habitat quality mediate shortterm foraging site fidelity in a seabird

Gemma Carroll*, Robert Harcourt, Benjamin J. Pitcher, David Slip, Ian Jonsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Foraging site fidelity allows animals to increase their efficiency by returning to profitable feeding areas. However, the mechanisms underpinning why animals 'stay' or 'switch' sites have rarely been investigated. Here, we explore how habitat quality and prior prey capture experience influence short-term site fidelity by the little penguin (Eudyptula minor). Using 88 consecutive foraging trips by 20 brooding penguins, we found that site fidelity was higher after foraging trips where environmental conditions were favourable, and after trips where prey capture success was high. When penguins exhibited lower site fidelity, the number of prey captures relative to the previous trip increased, suggesting that switches in foraging location were an adaptive strategy in response to low prey capture rates. Penguins foraged closer to where other penguins foraged on the same day than they did to the location of their own previous foraging site, and caught more prey when they foraged close together. This suggests that penguins aggregated flexibly when prey was abundant and accessible. Our results illustrate how foraging predators can integrate information about prior experience with contemporary information such as social cues. This gives insight into how animals combine information adaptively to exploit changing prey distribution in a dynamic environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20180788
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume285
Issue number1883
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2018

Keywords

  • behavioural plasticity
  • foraging ecology
  • foraging strategy
  • marine predator
  • seabird
  • site fidelity

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