Volume 44, No. 2
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Key words: Ancient Murrelet, Synthliboramphus antiquus, Langara Island, marine radar, colony attendance, weather, light
The decision to attend a colony on any given day or night is arguably the result of a trade-off between survival and reproductive success. It is often difficult to study this trade-off, as monitoring patterns of colony attendance for nocturnal burrow-nesting seabirds is challenging. Here, I 1) examined the effectiveness of monitoring Ancient Murrelet colony arrivals using marine radar, and 2) evaluated differences in colony attendance behavior in relation to time, light, and weather. I found a strong correlation between the number of Ancient Murrelets counted by observers in the colony and the number of radar targets counted, with estimated radar target counts being ~95 times higher than observer counts. My hypothesis that patterns of colony attendance are related to environmental conditions (i.e. light and weather) and that this relationship changes with time after sunset was supported. The top supported model included interactions between time after sunset and light and weather variables, suggesting that they were important predictors of colony arrivals. Contrary to my prediction, results suggest that light conditions (moon absence and cloud cover) and wave height were most important for individuals arriving three hours after sunset (when >75% of arrivals would be breeders). Assuming the majority of birds arriving early in the night are breeders and those arriving late in the night are non-breeders, these results suggest differences in patterns of colony attendance that may be attributed to age and/or breeding status.
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