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To the Antarctic or Brazil for new feathers
Date:3/15/2010

Not only land birds, but also some seabirds, cover enormous distances during migration: the sooty shearwater, for example, circumnavigates the earth one and a half times on its travels. Despite this, relatively little is known about the migratory behaviour of seabirds as compared with that of their land-living counterparts. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology have studied the migratory behaviour of thin-billed prions and discovered that the animals spend their moulting season in two areas that are at a considerable distance from each other. Thus, it would appear that some seabirds can be extremely flexible and change their habitat if required - a vital adaptation to the unpredictable conditions found on the high seas. (Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, first published online on March 9, 2010)

While it has been possible to trace the migratory behaviour of some of the biggest marine birds, in particular the albatross, using satellite transmitters for more than 20 years now, this has not yet been possible for smaller species. Methods used on land, such as ringing and radio telemetry, offer little prospect of success on the open seas. A team of researchers working with Petra Quillfeldt from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell managed to overcome these difficulties, however, and succeeded in decoding information about the migratory behaviour of thin-billed prions. This approximately black-bird-sized species of the tubenose family, which also includes the albatrosses, fulmarine petrels and storm petrels, breeds from November to February on the Falkland Islands and neighbouring island groups in the South Atlantic. The Max Planck scientists had already demonstrated in an earlier study that at least some of the birds fly to an area south of the Antarctic Convergence zone to moult and renew their feathers. Thin-billed prions were also observed at the same time off the South American shelf and the Brazilian coast.
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Contact: Petra Quillfeldt
quillfeldt@orn.mpg.de
49-773-215-0114
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert

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