We compared strip transect and radio-tracking methods of determining foraging range of Black-legged Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla). The mean distance birds were observed from their colony determined by radio-tracking was significantly greater than the mean value calculated from strip transects. We determined that this difference was due to two sources of bias: (1) as distance from the colony increased, the area of available habitat also increased resulting in decreasing bird densities (bird spreading). Consequently, the probability of detecting birds during transect surveys also would decrease as distance from the colony increased, and (2) the maximum distance birds were observed from the colony during radio-tracking exceeded the extent of the strip transect survey. We compared the observed number of birds seen on the strip transect survey to the predictions of a model of the decreasing probability of detection due to bird spreading. Strip transect data were significantly different from modeled data; however, the field data were consistently equal to or below the model predictions, indicating a general conformity to the concept of declining detection at increasing distance. We conclude that radio-tracking data gave a more representative indication of foraging distances than did strip transect sampling. Previous studies of seabirds that have used strip transect sampling without accounting for bird spreading or the effects of study-area limitations probably underestimated foraging range.
Additional publication details
Evaluation of radio-tracking and strip transect methods for determining foraging ranges of Black-Legged Kittiwakes