Geolocators reveal migration and pre-breeding behaviour of the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus.
Guilford T., Wynn R., McMinn M., Rodríguez A., Fayet A., Maurice L., Jones A., Meier R.
Using combined miniature archival light and salt-water immersion loggers, we characterise the year-round individual at-sea movements of Europe's only critically endangered seabird, the Balearic shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus, for the first time. Focusing on the non-breeding period, we show that all of the 26 breeding birds tracked from their breeding site on Mallorca in the Mediterranean Sea successfully made a 2-4 month migration into the Atlantic Ocean, where they utilised well-defined core areas off Portuguese and French coasts. As well as identifying high-risk areas in the Atlantic, our results confirm that breeding birds spend most of the year concentrated around productive waters of the Iberian shelf in the western Mediterranean. Migration phenology appeared largely unrelated to the subsequent (distinctly synchronous) breeding attempt, suggesting that any carry-over effects were compensated for during a long pre-laying period spent over winter in the Mediterranean. Using the light and salt-water immersion data alone we were also able to characterise the pattern of pre-laying visits to the colony in considerable detail, demonstrating that breeding pairs appear to coordinate their over-day visits using a high frequency of night-time visits throughout the winter. Our study shows that geolocation technology is a valuable tool for assessing the spatial distribution of risks to this critically endangered species, and also provides a low-impact method for remotely observing the detailed behaviour of seabird species that may be sensitive to disturbance from traditional study methods.