Both within and among seabird species, different aspects of breeding biology may respond to changes in prey availability in distinct ways, and the identification of species-specific breeding parameters that are sensitive to food availability is useful for monitoring purposes. We present data from a 5-year study (1995-1999) of the breeding ecology of Horned Puffins (Fratercula corniculata) in Alaska. The El Nin??o - Southern Oscillation event of 1997-1998 provided an opportunity to examine the sensitivity of various breeding parameters to a reduction in prey availability caused by the anomalous oceanographic conditions of 1998. Horned Puffins were able to maintain high fledging success (83-97%) over the 5 years of the study, despite the poor local feeding conditions in 1998. The rate of increase in chick mass was lowest in 1998, and evidence suggests that chicks also fledged at the youngest ages in that year. The impacts of reduced food availability on growth varied among body structures, suggesting differential allocation of energy and nutrients. There was no variation among years in either chick diet or the mass of food loads delivered by adults. We suggest that rates of chick growth, specifically mass increase, may be a good parameter to measure for use in monitoring Horned Puffins.
Additional Publication Details
Breeding ecology of Horned Puffins (Fratercula corniculata) in Alaska: Annual variation and effects of El Nin??o