Gadfly Petrels

Juan Fernández Petrel

Over the course of two austral summers in 2004-2005, I spent 60 plus days living in a tent on a windy ridge at 1,500m above sea level.  My research on Isla Alejandro Selkirk was the first of its kind to study the provisioning strategy of the adult Juan Fernández petrel (Pterodroma externa), a medium-sized gadlfy petrel that numbers two million breeders and is listed by BirdLife International because it is endemic to this one island.

Many albatrosses and shearwaters undergo a complex foraging strategy of alternating short and long foraging trips, to waters near and far, respectively, in order to find food for their chick and feed themselves. This so-named short-long feeding strategy allows adults to maintain their body mass and a supply a steady, if not periodic, energy flow to their chick for 100+ days.  In my dissertation research, I tested whether this petrel used this strategy to see how universal it was within the Procellariiformes, or tubenosed birds. To find out where the birds were foraging, I attached miniature Lotek data loggers to breeding adults to measure water temperature and interpolate location.  I also documented the short-term, and hypothesised possible long-term, effects of tag attachment and handling on adults and their chick.

This research is currently being prepared for publication and has been presented at conferences in Canada, USA, Chile, Uruguay and Japan.

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