So far, almost all studies of movements and foraging ecology of seabirds have concerned epipelagic predators. This happens because most predators of mesopelagic species are small petrels which, despite their global abundance, are difficult to study for a variety reasons. Their stomach contents are often heavily digested, rendering identification based on morphology problematic. Devices used for tracking have, until now, been too heavy to deploy on these birds. And even the assessment of numbers, for basic demography studies, is problematic, due to their underground nesting habits.
By combining conventional methods and very recent approaches and tools, we intend to provide the first detailed ecological study of the Bulwer’s petrel.
The broad objectives of this research project are:
1 – To characterize, for the first time, the foraging strategies of an avian predator of mesopelagic fauna (the Bulwer’s Petrel) in tropical and sub-tropical waters;
2 – To provide relevant insights into the distribution and temporal patterns of variation of mesopelagic fauna in NE Atlantic waters (e.g. little studied mesopelagic fishes and squids);
3 - To unveil key oceanographic factors determining habitat choices and foraging efficiency at different spatial and temporal scales, with implications for the understanding of the role of seabirds as indicators of the marine environment;
4 - To develop new approaches to study the ecology of small sized seabirds, through a) applying innovative molecular techniques on dietary studies and b) testing new procedures for estimating the abundance of crevice-nesting petrels.