Intermittent breeding in Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea of Selvagem Grande, North Atlantic

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Abstract

Every year, 10% of the breeding population of Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea of Selvagem Grande, between the Canaries and Madeira (30d̀09'N, 15d̀52'W), fail to breed. These “sabbatical” periods can last up to 7 years but typically last 1 year in 58% of the cases, with an average of 1.7 years. Both sexes are involved, and most are young breeding birds. The frequency and duration of the absences decrease with the increase of breeding experience. During the year preceding the absence, the breeding success, mate fidelity and nest site fidelity of the breeding birds are the same as those of their sabbatical congeners. During the sabbatical absence, the former mate is also absent in just less than half of the cases. Of those present, two-thirds are at the same nest site and one-third at another nest site. On the return of the “missing” birds, the fidelity both to the former mate and the former nest site is low, and more so if the length of the absence has been over 1 year, because the former mate and the former nest site are then seldom available. Divorce is frequent and the breeding success is low. Comparisons with other Procellariiformes reveal few differences in the intermittent breeding except for the proportions involved, which are six times greater for some species than for others.

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