Alaska Science Center
Components of breeding productivity in a marine bird community: key factors and concordance
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Product Type: Journal Article
Authors: Hatch, S. A. and M. A. Hatch
We estimated components of annual breeding productivity for eight species of marine birds on the Semidi Islands in the western Gulf of Alaska. Mortality of eggs and young, caused primarily by avian predators, accounted for most of the annual variation in productivity. Failure to produce eggs, clutch size variation, and the hatchability of eggs were generally less important. The stage of breeding at which annual productivity was most strongly regulated differed among species. In murres, chick-rearing success accounted for the largest share of annual variation in overall productivity, whereas incubation success was the key factor in fulmars, kittiwakes, and puffins. Although avian predators were the dominant proximate cause of egg and chick losses in some species, food supply seemed ultimately responsible for variation in all the major components of productivity. Concordance of productivity among species was low for the marine bird community as a whole, but selected pairs of species exhibited a greater tendency for high and low productivities to occur in the same years. Compared with the same or similar species outside Alaska, Semidi Islands birds were in one of three categories: (i) species whose productivity was about the same as reported from other areas (fulmars and gulls), (ii) species with comparatively low productivity (murres, puffins, kittiwakes), and (iii) species with similar mean productivity but greater annual variation (cormorants). These patterns suggest that specialized consumers of forage fish experienced food shortages at the Semidi Islands and that surface feeders were more severely affected than divers.