This study describes and compares the pelagic distribution and migratory patterns of the two subspecies of Gould’s Petrel (Pterodroma leucoptera), and contrasts data obtained from tracking birds at sea using geolocators with observational data (shipboard sightings, by-catch records and beachcast specimens). While breeding, tracked individuals of both subspecies (P. l. leucoptera and P. l. caledonica) foraged within the Tasman Sea and south of the Australian continent, with forays west into the Indian Ocean before laying. After breeding, both subspecies migrated to distinct non-breeding ranges within the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Observational data identified the general pattern of migration and foraging areas of the species, whereas data from geolocators provided details of routes and timing of migration, core foraging ranges, and marked spatial and temporal segregation between the two subspecies. However, by attaching geolocators only to established breeders, as is typical of studies of small and medium-sized seabirds, these devices failed to identify that non-breeding birds (pre-breeders and adults that are deferring breeding) may not follow the same migratory schedules or have the same at-sea distribution. We conclude that integrating data from electronic tracking with observational data substantially improves our understanding of the pelagic distribution of seabird populations.
PUBLICATION AVAILABLE AT: http://doi.org/10.1071/MU14021