Breeding ecology of the Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis and the Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla in high-arctic northeastern Greenland, 1993

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Abstract

The breeding ecology of the Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis and the Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla in the high Arctic was studied in relation to the occurrence of the northeast water polynya in northeasternmost Greenland (80d̀N). Mean laying dates were 31 May in the Fulmar and 18 June in the Kittiwake; the total nesting season for the Fulmar just matched the time window of the polynya opening period. Fulmar colony attendance fluctuated within a period of 11.6 days because of variation in nonbreeding prospectors but showed no clear diurnal variation. Fulmar incubation shifts, on average, lasted 6.1 days (range 1–13 days), which is significantly longer than elsewhere, and the average chick-guard period of 10.9 days (range 1–17 days) was significantly shorter than in other studies. Egg neglect occurred in 18% of Fulmar nests or 0.7% of nests per day. Overall breeding success (chicks fledged per egg laid) was 0.56 in the Fulmar and 0.67 in the Kittiwake; the latter produced 1.4 young per active nest or 1.2 per completed nest. Mean Kittiwake clutch size was 2.03; larger clutches were laid early. Nest site characteristics (presumably reflecting nest predation risk) and breeding behaviour affected breeding success. in the Fulmar, hatching success was negatively correlated with laying date and the proportion of egg neglect, while overall breeding success was correlated negatively with distance to nearest neighbouring site and positively with the length of the chick-guard period. Kittiwake breeding success was negatively correlated with laying date. Using seabirds as indicators of marine food supply, breeding success in both species suggested moderate to good food supply in the northeast water polynya in 1993, although at least in the Fulmar the high reproductive output appeared partly maintained by behavioural buffering; long incubation shifts, egg neglect and short chick-guard periods were symptoms of foraging constraints.

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