Volume 47, No. 2

Search by author or title:

Movements and activity characteristics of the Brown Booby Sula leucogaster during the non-breeding period


1Okinawa Regional Research Center, Tokai University, Taketomi, Okinawa 907-1541, Japan *(
2Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Aichi 464-8601, Japan
3Current Address: Research and Development Center for Data Assimilation, The Institute of Statistical Mathematics, Tachikawa, Tokyo 190-8562, Japan


KOHNO, H., MIZUTANI, A., YODA, K. & YAMAMOTO, T. 2019. Movements and activity characteristics of the Brown Booby Sula leucogaster during the non-breeding period. Marine Ornithology 47: 169 - 174

Received 17 December 2018, accepted 01 April 2019

Date Published: 2019/10/15
Date Online: 2019/06/18
Key words: activity, Brown Booby, geolocation, non-breeding period, migration


As the availability of individual-based tracking has increased, our understanding of seabird distributions outside the breeding season has advanced for a variety of species, but remains comparatively limited for species inhabiting the tropics. In this study, we investigated the at-sea movement and activity of eight Brown Boobies Sula leucogaster during the non-breeding period using light-level geolocators. Boobies spent the non-breeding season in the western Pacific across a large geographical range; however, at a regional scale, there was variation among individuals in their use of wintering habitats, with areas 6 575 km apart between their northernmost (the East China Sea/Yellow Sea) and southernmost (northern New Guinea) destinations. Overall, during the non-breeding period, boobies spent 17.6 % ± 5.0 % of their time on the water during the day and 11.1 % ± 8.2 % of their time on the water at night. This low percentage of time spent on the water at night indicates that they may have rested on land or roosted on rocks, a behavior that might be an anti-predatory strategy. Although individuals exhibited spatiotemporal variations in their movements, all tracked birds were absent in the breeding region for periods of time coinciding with seasonal pulses of unfavorable local environmental conditions. This study is the first to explore individual-based at-sea movements and activity characteristics of Sula species during the non-breeding period. Our results provide insight into how breeding phenology relates to seasonal movements.


BAPTIST, M.J. & LEOPOLD, M.F. 2010. Prey capture success of Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis varies nonlinearly with water transparency. Ibis 152: 815-825.

BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL. 2004. Tracking Ocean Wanderers: the Global Distribution of Albatrosses and Petrels. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.

CAIRNS, D.K., GASTON, A.J. & HUETTMANN, F. 2008. Endothermy, ectothermy and the global structure of marine vertebrate communities. Marine Ecology Progress Series 356: 239-250.

CASTILLO-GUERRERO, J.A., LERMA, M., MELLINK, E., SUAZO-GUILLÉN, E. & PEÑALOZA-PADILLA, E.A. 2016. Environmentally-mediated flexible foraging strategies in brown boobies in the Gulf of California. Ardea 104: 33-47.

CATRY, T., RAMOS, J.A., LE CORRE, M. & PHILLIPS, R.A. 2009. Movements, at-sea distribution and behaviour of a tropical pelagic seabird: the wedge-tailed shearwater in the western Indian Ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series 391: 231-242.

CROXALL, J.P., SILK, J.R.D., PHILLIPS, R.A., AFANASYEV, V. & BRIGGS, D.R. 2005. Global circumnavigations: tracking year-round ranges of nonbreeding albatrosses. Science 307: 249-250.

DEHNHARD, N., LUDYNIA, K., POISBLEAU, M., DEMONGIN, L. & QUILLFELDT, P. 2013. Good days, bad days: wind as a driver of foraging success in a flightless seabird, the southern rockhopper penguin. PLoS ONE 8: e79487.

DIAS, M.P., GRANADEIRO, J.P. & CATRY, P. 2012. Do seabirds differ from other migrants in their travel arrangements? On route strategies of Cory's shearwater during its trans-equatorial journey. PLoS ONE 7: e49376.

DINGLE, H. & DRAKE, V.A. 2007. What is migration? BioScience 57: 113-121.

FINNEY, S.K., WANLESS, S. & HARRIS M.P. 1999. The effect of weather conditions on the feeding behaviour of a diving bird, the Common Guillemot Uria aalge. Journal of Avian Biology 30: 23-30.

GARTHE, S., LUDYNIA, K., HÜPPOP, O., KUBETZKI, U., MERAZ, J.F. & FURNESS, R.W. 2012. Energy budgets reveal equal benefits of varied migration strategies in northern gannets. Marine Biology 159: 1907-1915. 

HERTEL, F. & BALLANCE, L.T. 1999. Wing ecomorphology of seabirds from Johnston Atoll. The Condor 101: 549-556.

IKEMA, T., BRYANT, R.G. & BIGG, G.R. 2013. Environmental controls at multiple scales for the western Pacific: an Okinawan case study. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 128: 52-63.

JOHNSON, R.L., VENTER, A., BESTER, M.N. & OOSTHUIZEN, W.H. 2006. Seabird predation by White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias, and Cape Fur Seal, Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus, at Dyer Island. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 36: 23-32.

KOHNO, H. 2000. Visits of immature Blue-faced and Red-footed Boobies to Nakanokamishima, South Ryukyu, Japan. Bulletin of Institute of Oceanic Research and Development, Tokai University 21: 111-117.

KOHNO, H., YAMAMOTO, T., MIZUTANI, A., MURAKOSHI, M. & YODA, K. 2018. Breeding phenology and chick growth in the Brown Booby Sula leucogaster (Sulidae) on Nakanokamishima, Japan. Ornithological Science 17: 87-93.

KUBETZKI, U., GARTHE, S., FIFIELD, D., MENDEL, B. & FURNESS, R.W. 2009. Individual migratory schedules and wintering areas of northern gannets. Marine Ecology Progress Series 391: 257-265. 

LEWIS, S., SCHREIBER, E.A., DAUNT, F., SCHENK, G.A., WANLESS, S. & HAMER, K.C. 2004. Flexible foraging patterns under different time constraints in tropical boobies. Animal Behaviour 68: 1331-1337.

LEWIS, S., SCHREIBER, E.A., DAUNT, F. ET AL. 2005. Sex-specific foraging behaviour in tropical boobies: does size matter? Ibis 147: 408-414.

LONGHURST, A.R. & PAULY, D. 1998. Ecology of tropical oceans. London, UK: Academic Press.

MENDEZ, L., BORSA, P., CRUZ, S. ET AL. 2017. Geographical variation in the foraging behaviour of the pantropical red-footed booby. Marine Ecology Progress Series 568: 217-230.

MILLER, M.G.R., SILVA, F.R.O., MACHOVSKY-CAPUSKA, G.E. & CONGDON, B.C. 2018. Sexual segregation in tropical seabirds: drivers of sex-specific foraging in the brown booby Sula leucogaster. Journal of Ornithology 159: 425-437.

NELSON, J.B. 1978. The Sulidae: gannets and boobies. Cambridge, UK: Oxford University Press.

NEWTON, I. 2008. The migration ecology of birds. London, UK: Academic Press. 

NEWTON, I. 2012. Obligate and facultative migration in birds: ecological aspects. Journal of Ornithology 153: 171-180.

PHILLIPS, R.A., SILK, J.R.D., CROXALL, J.P., AFANASYEV, V. & BENNETT, V. 2005. Summer distribution and migration of non-breeding 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.

PINET, P., JAQUEMET, S., PINAUD, D., WEIMERSKIRCH, H., PHILLIPS, R.A. & LE CORRE, M. 2011. Migration, wintering distribution and habitat use of an endangered tropical seabird, Barau's petrel Pterodroma baraui. Marine Ecology Progress Series 423: 291-302.

R DEVELOPMENT CORE TEAM. 2016. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria: The R Foundation for Statistical Computing.

RAMOS, R., SANZ, V., MILITÃO, T. ET AL. 2015. Leapfrog migration and habitat preferences of a small oceanic seabird, Bulwer's petrel (Bulweria bulwerii). Journal of Biogeography 42: 1651-1664.

SCHREIBER, E.A. & BURGER, J. 2002. Biology of marine birds. Boca Raton, U.S.A: CRC Press.

SCHREIBER, E.A. & NORTON, R.L. 2002. Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster). In: RODEWALD, P.G. (Ed.) The birds of North America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. [Available online at: Accessed 10 June 2018].

SHAFFER, S.A., TREMBLAY, Y., WEIMERSKIRCH, H. ET AL. 2006. Migratory shearwaters integrate oceanic resources across the Pacific Ocean in an endless summer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103: 12799-12802.

SOMVEILLE, M., RODRIGUES, A.S.L. & MANICA, A. 2018. Energy efficiency drives the global seasonal distribution of birds. Nature Ecology and Evolution 2: 962-969.

SPEAR, L.B. & AINLEY, D.G. 2005. At-sea behaviour and habitat use by tropicbirds in the eastern Pacific. Ibis 147: 391-407.

WEIMERSKIRCH, H., LE CORRE, M., JAQUEMET, S. & MARSAC, F. 2005. Foraging strategy of a tropical seabird, the red-footed booby, in a dynamic marine environment. Marine Ecology Progress Series 288: 251-261.

WEIMERSKIRCH, H., SHAFFER, S.A., TREMBLAY, Y. ET AL. 2009. Species- and sex-specific differences in foraging behaviour and foraging zones in blue-footed and brown boobies in the Gulf of California. Marine Ecology Progress Series 391: 267-278.

WILSON, R.P., DUCAMP, J.J., REES, G., CULIK, B.M. & NIEKAMP, K. 1992. Estimation of location: global coverage using light intensity. In: PRIEDE, I.M. & SWIFT, S.M. (Eds.) Wildlife telemetry: remote monitoring and tracking of animals. New York, NY: Ellis Horward.

WOTHERSPOON, S., SUMNER, M. & LISOVSKI, S. 2015. SGAT: solar/satellite geolocation for animal tracking. [Available online at:].

YAMAMOTO, T., TAKAHASHI, A., KATSUMATA, N., SATO, K. & TRATHAN, P.N. 2010. At-sea distribution and behavior of Streaked Shearwaters (Calonectris leucomelas) during the nonbreeding period. The Auk 127: 871-881.

YAMAMOTO, T., KOHNO, H., MIZUTANI, A. ET AL. 2017. Effect of wind on the flight of Brown Booby fledglings. Ornithological Science 16: 17-22.

YAMASHINA INSTITUTE FOR ORNITHOLOGY. 2002. Atlas of Japanese Migratory Birds from 1961 to 1995. Tokyo, Japan: Ministry of the Environment, Government of Japan.

YODA, K. & KOHNO, H. 2008. Plunging behavior in the chick-rearing brown booby. Ornithological Science 7: 5-13.

YODA, K., MURAKOSHI, M., TSUTSUI, K. & KOHNO, H. 2011. Social interactions of juvenile brown boobies at sea as observed with animal-borne video cameras. PLoS ONE 6: e19602

ZAVALAGA, C.B., EMSLIE, S.D., ESTELA, F.A., MÜLLER, M.S., DELL'OMO, G. & ANDERSON, D.J. 2012. Overnight foraging trips by chick-rearing Nazca Boobies Sula granti and the risk of attack by predatory fish. Ibis 154: 61-73.

ZAJKOVÁ, Z., MILITÃO, T. & GONZÁLEZ-SOLÍS, J. 2017. Year-round movements of a small seabird and oceanic isotopic gradient in the tropical Atlantic. Marine Ecology Progress Series 579: 169-183.

ZHANG, Y., SPERBER, K.R. & BOYLE, J.S. 1997. Climatology and interannual variation of the east Asia winter Monsoon: results from the 1979-95 NCEP/NCAR reanalysis. Monthly Weather Review 125: 2605-2619.

Search by author or title:

Browse previous volumes: