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Adult Prey Choice Affects Chick Growth and Reproductive Success in Pigeon Guillemots

Gregory H. Golet, Katherine J. Kuletz, Daniel D. Roby and David B. Irons
The Auk
Vol. 117, No. 1 (Jan., 2000), pp. 82-91
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4089548
Page Count: 10
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Adult Prey Choice Affects Chick Growth and Reproductive Success in Pigeon Guillemots
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Abstract

Pigeon Guillemots (Cepphus columba) are diving seabirds that forage near shore and feed their chicks demersal and schooling fishes. During nine years between 1979 and 1997, we studied chick diet, chick growth rate, and reproductive success of Pigeon Guillemots at Prince William Sound, Alaska, to determine factors limiting breeding populations. We found evidence for prey specialization among breeding pairs and detected differences in reproductive success between specialists and generalists. Pairs that specialized on particular prey types when foraging for their chicks fledged more chicks than those that generalized, apparently because they delivered larger individual prey items. Reproductive performance also varied among guillemot pairs as a function of the proportion of high-lipid schooling fishes fed to the chicks. Pairs that delivered primarily high-lipid fishes (Pacific sand lance [Ammodytes hexapterus] and Pacific herring [Clupea pallasii]) had higher overall reproductive success than pairs that delivered primarily low-lipid demersal fishes (e.g. sculpins, blennies, stichaeids, and pholidids) and gadids. The proportion of high-lipid fishes in the diet was positively related to chick growth, suggesting that piscivorous seabird chicks benefit from eating species with high-energy densities during development. The diet of Pigeon Guillemot chicks showed high annual variation from 1979 to 1997, presumably because of fluctuations in abundance of Pacific sand lance, a high-lipid schooling fish. Regression analyses suggest that the percent occurrence of high-lipid fishes in the diet affected chick growth rate at the population level. We conclude that Pigeon Guillemots benefit by specializing when selecting prey for their chicks, and that high-lipid schooling fishes enhance chick growth and reproductive success.

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