Volume 47, No. 1

Search by author or title:

Individual consistency in the non-breeding behavior of a long-distance migrant seabird, the Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea


1Centre d'Études Biologiques de Chizé, UMR 7372 du CNRS-Université de La Rochelle,79360 Villiers-en-Bois, France (
2Sorbonne Université CNRS Station Biologique de Roscoff, UMR Adaptation et Diversité en Milieu Marin, AD2M, F-29680 Roscoff, France (current address)
3School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, Nicholson Building, Brownlow Street, Liverpool L69 3GP, UK


DELORD, K., BARBRAUD, C., PINAUD, P., RUAULT, S., PATRICK, S.C. & WEIMERSKIRCH, H. 2019. Individual consistency in the non-breeding behavior of a long-distance migrant seabird, the Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea. Marine Ornithology 47: 93 - 103

Received 29 October 2018, accepted 12 January 2019

Date Published: 2019/04/15
Date Online: 2019/04/02
Key words: conservation implications, geolocators, migration, Procellaria cinerea, repeating patterns, Southern Ocean, tracking


There is growing interest in the consistency of individual differences in animal behavior as it relates to life history traits and fitness. Despite the relatively large number of studies investigating repeatable behaviors, studies have only recently investigated repeatability in foraging or migratory behaviors, and this has seldom been explored between years. We examined the individual consistency in foraging behavior of the Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea, a pelagic long-distance migrant. We analyzed how foraging, activity, and migratory patterns were repeatable across different seasons. We used tracking data to monitor the migratory movements and behavior of individuals during the non-breeding period over five years. Despite the small sample size, we found that there was a relatively high individual consistency in wintering strategies across years, with birds displaying high fidelity to their non-breeding destinations during consecutive years. Activity parameters, date of departure of inward migration, duration of migration, and duration spent in non-breeding areas were repeatable as well. The duration of the non-breeding period was the most repeatable, reflecting consistent departure times and, to a lesser extent, consistent arrival times. A high overall repeatability was seen in the timing of the return migration. With respect to sex, males tended to be more consistent in their migration strategy (i.e., timing of migration, time spent in non-breeding areas) than females. Although conditions during the Holocene have generally been stable in the Southern Ocean, species lacking variability in migratory traits are probably at a considerable disadvantage in terms of their capacity to respond to the rapid environment changes currently underway.


AFANASYEV, V. 2004. A miniature daylight level and activity data recorder for tracking animals over long periods. Memoirs of National Institute of Polar Research 58: 227-233.

BAILLEUL, F., AUTHIER, M., DUCATEZ, S. ET AL. 2010. Looking at the unseen: combining animal bio-logging and stable isotopes to reveal a shift in the ecological niche of a deep diving predator. Ecography 33: 709-719.

BARBRAUD, C., DELORD, K., MARTEAU, C. & WEIMERSKIRCH, H. 2009. Estimates of population size of white-chinned petrels and grey petrels at Kerguelen Islands and sensitivity to fisheries. Animal Conservation 12: 258-265.

BARBRAUD, C. & WEIMERSKIRCH, H. 2003. Climate and density shape population dynamics of a marine top predator. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences 270: 2111-2116.

BELKIN, I.M. & GORDON, A.L. 1996. Southern Ocean fronts from the Greenwich meridian to Tasmania. Journal of Geophysical Research 101: 3675-3696.

BELL, A.M., HANKISON, S.J. & LASKOWSKI, K.L. 2009. The repeatability of behaviour: a meta-analysis. Animal Behaviour 77: 771-783.

BETY, J., GIROUX, J.F. & GAUTHIER, G. 2004. Individual variation in timing of migration: causes and reproductive consequences in greater snow geese (Anser caerulescens atlanticus). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 57: 1-8.

BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL. 2018. Procellaria cinerea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22698159A112038075. [Available online at: Accessed on 7 January 2019].

BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL. 2019. Marine IBA e-Atlas. [Available online at: Accessed on 7 January 2019].

BOGDANOVA, M.I., DAUNT, F., NEWELL ET AL. 2011. Seasonal interactions in the black-legged kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla: links between breeding performance and winter distribution. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences 278: 2412-2418.

BOST, C.A., THIEBOT, J.B., PINAUD, D., CHEREL, Y. & TRATHAN, P.N. 2009. Where do penguins go during the inter-breeding period? Using geolocation to track the winter dispersion of the macaroni penguin. Biology Letters 5: 473-476.

BOTH, C., ARTEMYEV, A.V., BLAAUW, B. ET AL. 2004. Large-scale geographical variation confirms that climate change causes birds to lay earlier. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences 271: 1657-62.

CALENGE, C. 2006. The package adehabitat for the R software: a tool for the analysis of space and habitat use by animals. Ecological Modelling 197: 516-519.

CARNEIRO, A.P.B., BONNET-LEBRUN, A.S., MANICA, A., STANILAND, I.J. & PHILLIPS, R.A. 2017. Methods for detecting and quantifying individual specialisation in movement and foraging strategies of marine predators. Marine Ecology Progress Series 578: 151-166.

CARNEIRO, A.P.B., MANICA, A., CLAY, T.A., SILK, J.R.D., KING, M. & PHILLIPS, R.A. 2016. Consistency in migration strategies and habitat preferences of brown skuas over two winters, a decade apart. Marine Ecology Progress Series 553: 267-281.

CARNEIRO, A.P.B., POLITO, M.J., SANDER, M. & TRIVELPIECE, W.Z. 2010. Abundance and spatial distribution of sympatrically breeding Catharacta spp. (skuas) in Admiralty Bay, King George Island, Antarctica. Polar Biology 33: 673-682.

CHAMBERS, L.E., ALTWEGG, R., BARBRAUD, C. ET AL.  2013. Phenological Changes in the Southern Hemisphere. PLOS One 8: e75514. 

CHASTEL, O. 1995. Influence of reproductive success on breeding frequency in four southern petrels. Ibis 137: 360-363.

CHEREL, Y., QUILLFELDT, P., DELORD, K. & WEIMERSKIRCH, H. 2016. Combination of at-sea activity, geolocation and feather stable isotopes documents where and when seabirds molt. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 4: 1-16.

CLAY, T.A., MANICA, A. , RYAN, P.G. ET AL. 2016. Proximate drivers of spatial segregation in non-breeding albatrosses. Scientific Reports 6: 29932.

COTTÉ, C., D'OVIDIO, F., DRAGON, A.C. , GUINET, C. & LEVY, M. 2015. Flexible preference of southern elephant seals for distinct mesoscale features within the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Progress in Oceanography 131: 46-58.

CRICK, H.Q., DUDLEY, C. & GLUE, D.E. 1997. UK birds are laying eggs earlier. Nature 388: 526.

DALL, S.R.X., HOUSTON, A.I. & MCNAMARA, J.M.. 2004. The behavioural ecology of personality: consistent individual differences from an adaptive perspective. Ecology Letters 7: 734-739.

DELORD, K., BARBRAUD, C., BOST, C.A. ET AL. 2013. Atlas of Top Predators from the French Southern Territories in the Southern Indian Ocean. Villiers-en-Bois, France: CEBC-CNRS. [Available on line at: Accessed 22 January 2019]. doi: 10.15474/AtlasTopPredatorsOI_CEBC.CNRS_FrenchSouthernTerritories

DELORD, K., BARBRAUD, C., BOST, C.A. ET AL. 2014. Areas of importance for seabirds tracked from French southern territories, and recommendations for conservation. Marine Policy 48: 1-13.

DELORD, K., PINET, P., PINAUD, D. ET AL. 2016. Species-specific foraging strategies and segregation mechanisms of sympatric Antarctic fulmarine petrels throughout the annual cycle. Ibis 158: 569-586.

DIAS, M.P., GRANADEIRO, J.P., PHILLIPS, R.A., ALONSO, H.  & CATRY, P. 2011. Breaking the routine: individual Cory's shearwaters shift winter destinations between hemispheres and across ocean basins. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences 278: 1786-1793.

DIAS, M.P., GRANADEIRO, J.P.  & CATRY, P.  2013. Individual variability in the migratory path and stopovers of a long-distance pelagic migrant. Animal Behaviour 86: 359-364.

DUNN, P.O. & WINKLER, D.W. 1999. Climate change has affected the breeding date of tree swallows throughout North America. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences 266: 2487-90.

FAYET, A.L., FREEMAN, R., SHOJI, A. ET AL. 2016. Drivers and fitness consequences of dispersive migration in pelagic seabird. Behavioral Ecology 27: 1-12.

FIFIELD, D.A., MONTEVECCHI, W.A., GARTHE, S. ET AL. 2014. Migratory Tactics and Wintering Areas of Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) Breeding in North America. Ornithological Monographs 79: 1-63.

GRIFFITHS, R., DOUBLE, M.C., ORR, K.  & DAWSON, R.J. 1998. A DNA test to sex most birds. Molecular Ecology 7: 1071-1075.

HEDD, A., MONTEVECCHI, W.A., PHILLIPS,  R.A. & FIFIELD, D.A. 2014. Seasonal sexual segregation by monomorphic sooty shearwaters Puffinus griseus reflects different reproductive roles during the pre-laying period. PLOS One 9: e85572. 

IOTC-WPEB 2012. Resolution 12/06 on reducing the incidental bycatch of seabirds in longline fisheries. Victoria Mahe, Seychelles: IOTC. [Available online at: Accessed on 19 December 2017].

IOTC 2015a. Status of development and implementation of National Plans of Action for seabirds and sharks, and implementation of the FAO guidelines to reduce marine turtle mortality in fishing operations. IOTC-2015-WPEB11-09 Rev_1. Victoria Mahe, Seychelles: IOTC. [Available online at: Accessed on 19 December 2017].

IOTC 2015b. Provisional IUU vessels list of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. IOTC Circular 2015-039. Victoria Mahe, Seychelles: IOTC. [Available online at: Accessed on 19 December 2017].

LASCELLES, B., DI SCIARA, G.N., AGARDY, T. ET AL. 2014. Migratory marine species: their status, threats and conservation management needs. Aquatic Conservation-Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 24: 111-127.

LASCELLES, B., TAYLOR, P.R., MILLER, M.G.R. ET AL. 2016. Applying global criteria to tracking data to define important areas for marine conservation. Diversity and Distributions 22: 422-431.

LESSELLS, C.M. & BOAG, P.T. 1987. Unrepeatable repeatabilities—a common mistake. The Auk 104: 116-121.

MACKLEY, E.K., PHILLIPS, R.A., SILK, J.R.D. ET AL. 2011. At-sea activity patterns of breeding and nonbreeding White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis from South Georgia. Marine Biology 158: 429-438.

MARCHANT, S. & HIGGINS, P.J. 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press, pp. 126-134. 

MARTIN, T.G., CHADES, I., ARCESE, P. ET AL. 2007. Optimal conservation of migratory species. PLOS One 2:e751. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000751

MCFARLANE TRANQUILLA, L., MONTEVECCHI, W.A., FIFIELD, D.A. ET AL. 2014. Individual winter movement strategies in two species of murre (Uria spp.) in the Northwest Atlantic. PLOS One 9: e90583. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090583

MONTEVECCHI, W.A., HEDD, A., MCFARLANE TRANQUILLA, L. ET AL. 2012. Tracking seabirds to identify ecologically important and high risk marine areas in the western North Atlantic. Biological Conservation 156: 62-71.

MUELLER, M.S., MASSA, B., PHILLIPS, R.A. & DELL'OMO, G. 2014. Individual consistency and sex differences in migration strategies of Scopoli's shearwaters Calonectris diomedea despite year differences. Current Zoology 60: 631-641.

MUELLER, M.S., MASSA, B., PHILLIPS, R.A. & DELL'OMO, G. 2015. Seabirds mated for life migrate separately to the same places: behavioural coordination or shared proximate causes? Animal Behaviour 102: 267-276.

NAKAGAWA, S. & SCHIELZETH, H. 2010. Repeatability for Gaussian and non-Gaussian data: a practical guide for biologists. Biological Reviews 85: 935-956.

NORRIS, D.R. & MARRA, P.P. 2007. Seasonal interactions, habitat quality, and population dynamics in migratory birds. The Condor 109: 535-547.

ORBEN, R.A., PAREDES, R., ROBY, D.D., IRONS, D.B. & SHAFFER, S.A. 2015. Wintering North Pacific black-legged kittiwakes balance spatial flexibility and consistency. Movement Ecology 3-36. doi: 10.1186/s40462-015-0059-0.

PATRICK, S.C. & WEIMERKIRCH, H. 2017. Reproductive success is driven by local site fidelity despite stronger specialisation by individuals for large scale habitat preference. Journal of Animal Ecology 86: 674-682.

PATRICK, S.C., BEARHOP, S., GREMILLET, D. ET AL. 2014. Individual differences in searching behaviour and spatial foraging consistency in a central place marine predator. Oikos 123: 33-40.

PEREZ, C., GRANADEIRO, J.P., DIAS, M.P., ALONSO, H. & CATRY, P. 2014. When males are more inclined to stay at home: insights into the partial migration of a pelagic seabird provided by geolocators and isotopes. Behavioral Ecology 25: 313-319.

PÉRON, C., DELORD, K., PHILLIPS, R.A. ET AL. 2010. Seasonal variation in oceanographic habitat and behaviour of white-chinned petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis from Kerguelen Island. Marine Ecology Progress Series 416: 267-U288.

PHILLIPS, R.A., SILK, J.R.D., CROXALL, J.P., AFANASYEV, V. & BENNETT, V.J. 2005. Summer distribution and migration of nonbreeding albatrosses: individual consistencies and implications for conservation. Ecology 86: 2386-2396.

PHILLIPS, R.A., LEWIS, S., GONZÁLEZ-SOLÍS, J. & DAUNT, F. 2017. Causes and consequences of individual variability and specialization in foraging and migration strategies of seabirds. Marine Ecology Progress Series 578: 117-150.

PHILLIPS, R.A., SILK, J.R.D., CROXALL, J.P., AFANASYEV, V. & BRIGGS, D.R. 2004. Accuracy of geolocation estimates for flying seabirds. Marine Ecology-Progress Series 266: 265-272.

QUILLFELDT, P., CHEREL, Y., MASELLO, J.F. ET AL. 2015. Half a world apart? Overlap in nonbreeding distributions of Atlantic and Indian Ocean thin-billed prions. PLOS One 10: e0125007. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125007.

RAMÍREZ, I., PAIVA, V.H., FAGUNDES, I. ET AL 2016. Conservation implications of consistent foraging and trophic ecology in a rare petrel species. Animal Conservation 19: 139-152.

ROLLINSON, D.P., DILLEY, B.J., DAVIES, D. & RYAN, P. 2016. Diving behavior of Grey Petrels and its relevance for mitigating long-line by-catch. Emu 116: 340-349.

RUBOLINI, D., MOLLER, A.P., RAINIO, K. & LEHIKOINEN, E. 2007. Intraspecific consistency and geographic variability in temporal trends of spring migration phenology among European bird species. Climate Research 35: 135-146.

SMITH, B.R. & BLUMSTEIN, D.T. 2008. Fitness consequences of personality: a meta-analysis. Behavioral Ecology 19: 448-455.

SOKOLOV, S. & RINTOUL, S.R. 2009. Circumpolar structure and distribution of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current fronts: 1. Mean circumpolar paths. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans 114: C11018. doi: 10.1029/2008JC005108.

TAYLOR, G.A. 2000. Action Plan for Seabird Conservation in New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Department of Conservation.

THIEBOT, J.B., CHEREL, Y., TRATHAN, P.N. & BOST, C.A. 2011. Inter-population segregation in the wintering areas of macaroni penguins. Marine Ecology Progress Series 421: 279-290.

THORUP, K., VARDANIS, Y., TOTTRUP, A.P., KRISTENSEN, M.W. & ALERSTAM, T. 2013. Timing of songbird migration: individual consistency within and between seasons. Journal of Avian Biology 44: 486-494.

TORRES, L.G., SUTTON, P.J.H., THOMPSON, D.R. ET AL. 2015. Poor transferability of species distribution models for a pelagic predator, the Grey Petrel, indicates contrasting habitat preferences across ocean basins. PLOS One 10: e0120014.

VARDANIS, Y., KLAASSEN, R.H., STRANDBERG, R. & ALERSTAM, T. 2011. Individuality in bird migration: routes and timing. Biology Letters 7: 502-505.

VARDANIS, Y., NILSSON, J.A., KLAASSEN, R.H., STRANDBERG, R. & ALERSTAM, T. 2016. Consistency in long-distance bird migration: contrasting patterns in time and space for two raptors. Animal Behaviour 113: 177-187.

WAKEFIELD, E.D., CLEASBY, I.R., BEARHOP, S. ET AL. 2015. Long-term individual foraging site fidelity—why some gannets don't change their spots. Ecology 96: 3058-3074.

WEIMERSKIRCH, H., CHEREL, Y., DELORD, K. ET AL. 2014. Lifetime foraging patterns of the wandering albatross: Life on the move! Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 450: 68-78.

WEIMERSKIRCH, H., DELORD, K., GUITTEAUD, A., PHILLIPS, R.A. & PINET, P. 2015. Extreme variation in migration strategies between and within wandering albatross populations during their sabbatical year, and their fitness consequences. Scientific Reports 5: 8853.

WEIMERSKIRCH, H., ZOTIER, R. &JOUVENTIN, P. 1989. The avifauna of the Kerguelen Islands. Emu 89: 15-29.

WORTON, B.J. 1989. Kernel methods for estimating the utilization distribution in home-range studies. Ecology 70: 164-168.

YAMAMOTO, T., TAKAHASHI, A., SATO, K. ET AL. 2014. Individual consistency in migratory behaviour of a pelagic seabird. Behaviour 151: 683-701.

Search by author or title:

Browse previous volumes: