At-sea movements of wedge-tailed shearwatersduring and outside the breeding season fromfour colonies in New Caledonia

  • January 9, 2020
  • by Weimerskirch, H., de Grissac, S., Ravache, A., Prudor, A., Corbeau, A., Congdon, B.C., Mcduie, F., Bourgeois, K., Dromzée, S., Butscher, J. and Menkès, C.,


The wedge-tailed shearwater (WTS) population of New Caledonia is one of the largest in the world, yet its biology and foraging ecology are poorly known. We studied WTS from 4 colonies in New Caledonia. We examined foraging behaviour and habitats using GPS receivers and light sensors during and outside the breeding season, respectively, and compared our findings with those from other WTS populations worldwide. During breeding, New Caledonian WTS alternated short foraging trips close to the colony over the lagoon, or off the reef edge, with longer trips over distant, deep waters. Whereas neighboring colonies overlapped at sea, especially during short trips, there was a clear separation of foraging zones between the pairs of colonies located in the southern versus northwestern parts of New Caledonia. Although WTS actively foraged and commuted to foraging zones during the day, they mainly returned to the colony or rested at night, indicating that they feed mainly during the day. Active foraging did not take place in more productive areas, suggesting that it may instead be related to the presence of sub-surface predators. Outside the breeding season, birds from 3 colonies had similar trans-equatorial migratory behaviour. All left New Caledonia at the same time of the year with a fast, northeasterly movement and wintered over deep waters in the same sector of the northwestern tropical Pacific Ocean. At overwintering sites, they spent most of their non-foraging time presumably sitting on the water, especially at night, making a slow westward movement before returning to New Caledonia. WTS from New Caledonia forage over warm, oligotrophic deep waters throughout their life cycle, and the species appears to have a flexible foraging strategy adapted to the various environmental conditions encountered across its wide tropical range.