The association of seabird species groups with physical habitat was investigated in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, far from any breeding colonies. This avoided birds that commute between colony and feeding habitat, behaviour that confuses associations with specific water types and current systems. Seabirds were counted on duplicate tracks in the eastern tropical Pacific each spring from 1984-1991. On each cruise, seabird habitat was measured on the basis of six factors and focused on three species groups: (A) black-winged petrel and white-winged petrel, (B) Juan Fernandez petrel, wedge-tailed shearwater, and sooty tern, and (C) Leach's storm-petrel and wedge-rumped storm-petrel. Group A was associated with the South Equatorial Current, particularly in cooler waters (median of 26.4??C); both petrel species followed this assemblage association with current. Group B was associated with areas characterized by deep thermoclines (median of 60 m) and low salinities (median of 34.33). Within Group B, two of the three species' responses were consistent with the group pattern; Juan Fernandez petrel differed by occurring more often where thermocline slopes were steep (median of 9.8 deg C m-1). Group C was not associated with any physical habitat variable. This was due to species in the group being associated with different habitats: Leach's storm-petrel with the tropical and equatorial surface water masses and wedge-rumped storm-petrel with waters having shallower thermocline depths (median of 22 m). Overall, two of the three assemblages appeared to be associated with physical habitat during spring with consistency among the species in the group. An association with thermocline depth may indicate that productivity was an important predictor of assemblage presence.
Additional publication details
The relationships of seabird assemblages to physical habitat features in Pacific equatorial waters during spring 1984-1991