Meso-scale variations in diet composition of little auk chicks in north-west Spitsbergen
Colonial seabirds from neighbouring breeding aggregations may share foraging grounds or utilize different areas in order to decrease the competition over food resources. In our study, we present the meso-scale variations in the diet composition of zooplanktivorous little auk chicks (Alle alle), based on samples collected over two years in two neighbouring colonies (Aasefjellet and Magdalenefjorden) located in north-west Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Although the colonies are situated only 10 km apart, they differ in geographical features (in-fjord vs. coastal). The main findings of our study were significant inter-colony and inter-year differences in the total abundance of diet items and in abundance of particular components. The open-sea species Themisto abyssorum was more abundant in the diet of chicks from Aasefjellet, situated in the outer coast. Another open-sea species, Calanus hyperboreus was also characteristic for this colony but only in the first year of study. On the other hand, the ice-associated amphipod Apherusa glacialis was regularly observed in the diet of little auk chicks from the Magdalenefjorden colony, which is located closer to the marginal ice zone. The differences observed in the diet composition of birds from the two neighbouring sites may indicate that two colonies of birds have at least partly separate foraging areas. Our results could also suggest flexibility in the little auk’s foraging behaviour that enables it to adapt to local feeding conditions. Thus, our study significantly contributes to the deeper understanding of little auks’ feeding strategies in the changing environment of northern Spitsbergen.
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