Volume 43, No. 2

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Tracking a small seabird: First records of foraging behaviour in the Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus


1School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GP, UK
2Department of Life Sciences, University of Roehampton, London SW15 4JD, UK (
3RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, The Lodge, Sandy SG19 2DL, UK
4Pathtrack Ltd., Otley, West Yorkshire LS21 3PB, UK
5Anguilla National Trust, The Valley, Anguilla, British West Indies


SOANES, L.M., BRIGHT, J.A., BRODIN, G., MUKHIDA, F. & GREEN, J.A. 2015. Tracking a small seabird: First records of foraging behaviour in the Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus. Marine Ornithology 43: 235 - 239

Received 23 April 2015, accepted 10 August 2015

Date Published: 2015/10/15
Date Online: 2017/02/28
Key words: Anguilla, Caribbean, GPS tracking, Lesser Antilles, tropical seabird, Sooty Tern


Over the last 12 years, the use of global positioning system (GPS) technology to track the movements of seabirds has revealed important information on their behaviour and ecology that has greatly aided in their conservation. To date, the main limiting factor in the tracking of seabirds has been the size of loggers, restricting their use to medium-sized or larger seabird species only. This study reports on the GPS tracking of a small seabird, the Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus, from the globally important population breeding on Dog Island, Anguilla. The eight Sooty Terns tracked in this preliminary study foraged a mean maximum distance of 94 (SE 12) km from the breeding colony, with a mean trip duration of 12 h 35 min, and mean travel speed of 14.8 (SE 1.2) km/h. While our study was limited in scope, it showed that small loggers such as the ones used present new opportunities for accurately tracking the short-term movements of small seabird species, thus providing huge potential to advance our understanding of seabird behaviour and conservation. Indeed, all study birds foraged in waters outside of Anguilla's Exclusive Economic Zone near the neighbouring islands of Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Eustatius, and St Kitts and Nevis, with 50% of birds commuting along the same route, thus demonstrating that the conservation of this population, with further study, will have geopolitical complexities.


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