Matthieu Le Corre: Migration, Wintering Distribution and Habitat Use of an Endangered Tropical Seabird, Barau's Petrel (Pew Marine Fellow, 2009)

Gadfly petrels are strictly oceanic seabirds that range very far from their breeding grounds. Foraging movements outside the breeding season are poorly described. Matthieu Le Corre and colleagues used global location sensing (GLS) to describe the migration pathways and wintering habitats of Barau's petrels Pterodroma baraui, an endemic, endangered seabird of Réunion Island (western Indian Ocean). In two consecutive years, petrels migrated far eastward, up to 5,000 km from their breeding colony, to the central and eastern Indian Ocean. Migration pathways, timing, and wintering areas varied little among individuals, and non-breeding areas were remarkably stable between years. Tracked birds repeatedly occurred in areas with relatively strong and consistent easterly winds, and avoided northern regions with weaker westerly winds. The team's results, which are published in the 10 February 2011 issue of Marine Ecology Progress Series, indicate that Barau's petrels use an expansive wintering area between the western South Equatorial Current and the eastern Equatorial Counter Current, characterized by warm sea surface temperatures (SST) and low productivity. These results provide important baseline information for conservation, and are useful for the selection of potential marine reserves and the evaluation of effects of pollution or climate change on this highly threatened species.

To read the paper, Celestial Moderation of Tropical Seabird Behavior, visit the PLoS One website.