Six pelagic seabird species of the North Atlantic engage in a fly-and-forage strategy during their migratory movements

F. Amélineau*, B. Merkel, A. Tarroux, S. Descamps, T. Anker-Nilssen, O. Bjørnstad, V. S. Bråthen, O. Chastel, S. Christensen-Dalsgaard, J. Danielsen, F. Daunt, N. Dehnhard, M. Ekker, K. E. Erikstad, A. Ezhov, P. Fauchald, M. Gavrilo, G. T. Hallgrimsson, E. S. Hansen, M. P. HarrisM. Helberg, H. H. Helgason, M. K. Johansen, J. E. Jónsson, Y. Kolbeinsson, Y. Krasnov, M. Langset, S. H. Lorentsen, E. Lorentzen, M. V. Melnikov, B. Moe, M. A. Newell, B. Olsen, T. Reiertsen, G. H. Systad, P. Thompson, T. L. Thórarinsson, E. Tolmacheva, S. Wanless, K. Wojczulanis-Jakubas, J. Åström, H. Strøm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Bird migration is commonly defined as a seasonal movement between breeding and non-breeding grounds. It generally involves relatively straight and directed large-scale movements, with a latitudinal change, and specific daily activity patterns comprising less or no foraging and more traveling time. Our main objective was to describe how this general definition applies to seabirds. We investigated migration characteristics of 6 pelagic seabird species (little auk Alle alle, At lantic puffin Fratercula arctica, common guillemot Uria aalge, Brünnich's guillemot U. lomvia, black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla and northern fulmars Fulmarus glacialis). We analysed an extensive geo - locator positional and saltwater immersion dataset from 29 colonies in the North-East Atlantic and across several years (2008-2019). We used a novel method to identify active migration periods based on segmentation of time series of track characteristics (latitude, longitude, net-squared displacement). Additionally, we used the saltwater immersion data of geolocators to infer bird activity. We found that the 6 species had, on average, 3 to 4 migration periods and 2 to 3 distinct stationary areas during the non-breeding season. On average, seabirds spent the winter at lower latitudes than their breeding colonies and followed specific migration routes rather than non-directionally dispersing from their colonies. Differences in daily activity patterns were small between migratory and stationary periods, suggesting that all species continued to forage and rest while migrating, engaging in a 'flyand-forage' migratory strategy. We thereby demonstrate the importance of habitats visited during seabird migrations as those that are not just flown over, but which may be important for re-fuelling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-144
Number of pages18
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Early online date14 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank all the fieldworkers for their hard work collecting data. Funding for this study was provided by the Norwegian Ministry for Climate and the Environment, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association along with 8 oil companies through the SEATRACK project (www. seapop. no/ en/ seatrack). Fieldwork in Norwegian colonies (incl. Svalbard and Jan Mayen) was supported by the SEAPOP program (, grant no. 192141). The French Polar Institute (IPEV project 330 to O.C.) supported field operation for Kongsfjord kittiwakes. The work on the Isle of May was also supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (Award NE/R016429/1 as part of the UK-SCaPE programme delivering National Capability). We thank Maria Bogdanova for field support and data processing. Finally, we thank 3 anonymous reviewers for their help improving the first version of the manuscript.


  • Common murres
  • Dovekies
  • Light-level geolocation
  • Migration strategies
  • Non-breeding movements
  • Thick-billed murres


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