Birds of a feather moult together: Differences in moulting distribution of four species of storm-petrels

Anne N.M.A. Ausems, Grzegorz Skrzypek, Katarzyna Wojczulanis-Jakubas, Dariusz Jakubas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The non-breeding period of pelagic seabirds, and particularly the moulting stage, is an important, but understudied part of their annual cycle as they are hardly accessible outside of the breeding period. Knowledge about the moulting ecology of seabirds is important to understand the challenges they face outside and within the breeding season. Here, we combined stable carbon (δ13C) and oxygen (δ18O) signatures of rectrices grown during the nonbreeding period of two pairs of storm-petrel species breeding in the northern (European storm-petrel, Hydrobates pelagicus, ESP; Leach's storm-petrel, Hydrobates leucorhous, LSP) and southern (black-bellied storm-petrel, Fregetta tropica, BBSP; Wilson's stormpetrel, Oceanites oceanicus, WSP) hemispheres to determine differences in moulting ranges within and between species. To understand clustering patterns in δ13C and δ18O moulting signatures, we examined various variables: species, sexes, years, morphologies (feather growth rate, body mass, tarsus length, wing length) and δ15N. We found that different factors could explain the differences within and between the four species. We additionally employed a geographical distribution prediction model based on oceanic δ13C and δ18O isoscapes, combined with chlorophyll-a concentrations and observational data to predict potential moulting areas of the sampled feather type. The northern species were predicted to moult in temperate and tropical Atlantic zones. BBSP was predicted to moult on the southern hemisphere north of the Southern Ocean, while WSP was predicted to moult further North, including in the Arctic and northern Pacific. While moulting distribution can only be estimated on large geographical scales using δ13C and δ18O, validating predictive outcomes with food availability proxies and observational data may provide valuable insights into important moulting grounds. Establishing those, in turn, is important for conservation management of elusive pelagic seabirds.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0245756
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1 January
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


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