A non-invasive approach to estimate the energetic requirements of an increasing seabird population in a perturbed marine ecosystem
Scientific Reports, 2018, 8(1): 8343.
There is a growing desire to integrate the food requirements of predators living in marine ecosystems impacted by humans into sustainable fisheries management. We used non-invasive video-recording, photography and focal observations to build time-energy budget models and to directly estimate the fish mass delivered to chicks by adult greater crested terns Thalasseus bergii breeding in the Benguela ecosystem. Mean modelled adult daily food intake increased from 140.9 g.d(-1) of anchovy Engraulis capensis during incubation to 171.7 g.d(-1) and 189.2 g.d(-1) when provisioning small and large chicks, respectively. Modelled prey intake expected to be returned to chicks was 58.3 g.d(-1) (95% credible intervals: 44.9-75.8 g.d(-1)) over the entire growth period. Based on our observations, chicks were fed 19.9 g.d(-1) (17.2-23.0 g.d(-1)) to 45.1 g.d(-1) (34.6-58.7 g.d(-1)) of anchovy during early and late provisioning, respectively. Greater crested terns have lower energetic requirements at the individual (range: 15-34%) and population level (range: 1-7%) than the other Benguela endemic seabirds that feed on forage fish. These modest requirements - based on a small body size and low flight costs coupled with foraging plasticity have allowed greater crested terns to cope with changing prey availability, unlike the other seabirds species using the same exploited prey base.