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Seabird morphology determines operational wind speeds, tolerable maxima, and responses to extremes
Elham Nourani , Kamran Safi, Sophie de Grissac, David J. Anderson, Nik C. Cole, Adam Fell, David Grémillet, Emmanouil Lempidakis, Miriam Lerma, Jennifer L. McKee, Lorien Pichegru, Pascal Provost, Niels C. Rattenborg, Peter G. Ryan, Carlos D. Santos, Stefan Schoombie, Vikash Tatayah, Henri Weimerskirch, Martin Wikelski, Emily Shepard
Swansea University Author: Emily Shepard
Accepted Manuscript under embargo until: 23rd February 2024
DOI (Published version): 10.1016/j.cub.2023.01.068
Storms can cause widespread seabird stranding and wrecking, yet little is known about the maximum wind speeds that birds are able to tolerate or the conditions they avoid. We analyzed >300,000 h of tracking data from 18 seabird species, including flapping and soaring fliers, to assess how flight...
|Published in:||Current Biology|
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Storms can cause widespread seabird stranding and wrecking, yet little is known about the maximum wind speeds that birds are able to tolerate or the conditions they avoid. We analyzed >300,000 h of tracking data from 18 seabird species, including flapping and soaring fliers, to assess how flight morphology affects wind selectivity, both at fine scales (hourly movement steps) and across the breeding season. We found no general preference or avoidance of particular wind speeds within foraging tracks. This suggests seabird flight morphology is adapted to a “wind niche,” with higher wing loading being selected in windier environments. In support of this, wing loading was positively related to the median wind speeds on the breeding grounds, as well as the maximum wind speeds in which birds flew. Yet globally, the highest wind speeds occur in the tropics (in association with tropical cyclones) where birds are morphologically adapted to low median wind speeds. Tropical species must therefore show behavioral responses to extreme winds, including long-range avoidance of wind speeds that can be twice their operable maxima. By contrast, Procellariiformes flew in almost all wind speeds they encountered at a seasonal scale. Despite this, we describe a small number of cases where albatrosses avoided strong winds at close range, including by flying into the eye of the storm. Extreme winds appear to pose context-dependent risks to seabirds, and more information is needed on the factors that determine the hierarchy of risk, given the impact of global change on storm intensity.
extreme weather events; storms; flight; wing loading; bio-logging
Faculty of Science and Engineering
We thank L. Pearmain and B. Clark for assistance with searching for data in and extracting data from Birdlife International’s Seabird Tracking Database and S. Davidson for assistance with locating relevant Movebank studies. We also thank B. Garde for his input throughout the project. E.L.C.S. was supported by a European Research Council starter grant (715874) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. E.N. was supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Postdoctoral Researchers International Mobility Experience (PRIME) fellowship and a Max Planck sabbatical fellowship was awarded to E.L.C.S. Data collection from Nazca boobies was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under grant no. DEB 1354473 to D.J.A. Data collection from masked boobies was supported by Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia (INAPI-CONACyT) grant no. 411876 to M.L.; the Chilean Millennium Initiative through the Millennium Nucleus Center of Ecology and Sustainable Management of Oceanic Islands (ESMOI); and the Research and Technology Centre (FTZ), University of Kiel. This is a contribution to the Excellence Chair Nouvelle Aquitaine ECOMM led by D.G. We thank three anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions.