Volume 45, No. 2

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Geographical variation in incubation shift length of Ancient Murrelets Synthliboramphus antiquus determined from geolocator devices


1National Wildlife Research Centre, Science and Technology Branch, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Ottawa, ON K1A 0H3, Canada (
2Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Pacific Wildlife Research Centre, 5421 Robertson Rd, RR#1, Delta, BC V4K 3N2, Canada


GASTON, A.J., HASHIMOTO, Y. & WILSON, L. 2017. Geographical variation in incubation shift length of Ancient Murrelets Synthliboramphus antiquus determined from geolocator devices. Marine Ornithology 45: 217 - 221

Received 17 June 2017, accepted 2 August 2017

Date Published: 2017/10/15
Date Online: 2017/10/09
Key words: Ancient Murrelet, British Columbia, geolocator, incubation, shift length, phenology, geographical variation


Incubation shift lengths were estimated from geolocator devices attached to 48 Ancient Murrelets Synthliboramphus antiquus at four colonies in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, during 2014 and retrieved during 2015. Light-level data were used to determine the timing of colony departures in 2014 and the start of incubation in 2015, and to measure the length of incubation shifts. Incubation started and ended 12 d later at colonies on the west coast of Haida Gwaii than at those on the east coast. First at-sea shifts after devices were attached (mean 3.6 d) were longer than later shifts (2.8 d), and longer than corresponding mate shifts (2.9 d), suggesting that attachment had some effect on behaviour. However, by the time of colony departure, shift lengths were unaffected by the devices. During 2014, excluding the last shift before departure, most shifts at colonies on the east coast were 1-3 d, whereas those at west coast colonies were 3-5 d. Shifts during 2015 were also longer at west coast than at east coast colonies, although sample sizes were smaller because time between start of incubation and recapture was mostly brief. This is the first demonstration of regional variation in incubation shifts among Ancient Murrelet populations. Although geolocators are generally used to study long-distance movements in seabirds, our results support to the idea that they can provide substantial additional information on the breeding biology of birds.


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