Volume 48, No. 2

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Nightly colony attendance patterns of provisioning Cassin's Auklet Ptychoramphus aleuticus are consistent and synchronous


1Centre for Wildlife Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, Canada
2Procellaria Research & Consulting, 944 Dunsmuir Road, Victoria, BC V9A 5C3, Canada (
3School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, PO Box 1700, Station CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada
4Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, c/o Institute of Ocean Sciences, 9860 West Saanich Road, PO Box 6000, Sidney, BC V8L 4B2, Canada
5Department of Geography, University of Victoria, PO Box 1700 Stn CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada
6Wildlife Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, c/o Institute of Ocean Sciences, 9860 West Saanich Road, PO Box 6000, Sidney, BC V8L 4B2, Canada
aCurrent address: Birds Canada, 17 Waterfowl Lane, Sackville, NB E4L 1G6, Canada
bCurrent address: Yukon Department of Environment, 10 Burns Road, Whitehorse, YT Y1A 4Y9, Canada


MCFARLANE TRANQUILLA, L., RYDER, J.L., BLIGHT, L.K., O'HARA, P.D. & BERTRAM, D.F. 2020. Nightly colony attendance patterns of provisioning Cassin's Auklet Ptychoramphus aleuticus are consistent and synchronous. Marine Ornithology 48: 263 - 272

Received 30 August 2019, accepted 14 July 2020

Date Published: 2020/10/15
Date Online: 2020/10/14
Key words: Nocturnal behaviour, predation risk, timing of breeding, Alcidae, radio telemetry, synchrony, tagging effects


We conducted a multi-year (1999-2001) radio telemetry study to determine patterns of colony attendance among breeding Cassin's Auklets Ptychoramphus aleuticus during the chick-rearing period on Triangle Island in British Columbia, Canada. A total of 1 625 detections were obtained for 80 individual birds (24-28 birds per year), each detected 20.3 times on average. We found that colony attendance (arrival times, departure times, in-burrow shift duration) and foraging trip duration (i.e., time away from the colony) were remarkably synchronous among individuals and years. On average, birds arrived in a pulse after darkness, with 67% of returns between 23h15 and 00h15 and a peak (22% of all returns) between 23h30 and 23h45. Birds departed synchronously en masse before sunrise, with 86% of departures between 03h15 and 04h15 and a peak (38% of all departures) between 03h45 and 04h00. Overall, parents visited the colony every 19.8 hours (median) and stayed for roughly four hours during the chick-rearing period. At the beginning of the season, female foraging trip duration was longer than that of males, though this decreased with day of year, suggesting that females may aim to recover condition immediately following egg production via increased foraging time. Most breeders routinely visited the colony every night despite the risk posed by avian predators. Understanding patterns of colony attendance is important, given changing ocean conditions and prey availability in the vicinity of the world's largest colony for this species.


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