We tracked the movements of Common Murres (Uria aalge), Thick-billed Murres (U. lomvia), and Tufted Puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) using surgically implanted satellite transmitters. From 1994-1996, we tagged 53 birds from two colonies in the Gulf of Alaska (Middleton Island and Barren Islands) and two colonies in the Chukchi Sea (Cape Thompson and Cape Lisburne). Murres and puffins ranged 100 km or farther from all colonies in summer, but most instrumented birds had abandoned breeding attempts and their movements likely differed from those of actively breeding birds. However, murres whose movements in the breeding period suggested they still had chicks to feed foraged repeatedly at distances of 50-80 km from the Chukchi colonies in 1995. We detected no differences in the foraging patterns of males and females during the breeding season, nor between Thick-billed and Common Murres from mixed colonies. Upon chick departure from the northern colonies, male murres - some believed to be tending their flightless young - rifted with prevailing currents toward Siberia, whereas most females flew directly South toward the Bering Sea. Murres from Cape Thompson and Cape Lisburne shared a common wintering area in the southeastern Bering Sea in 1995, and birds from Cape Lisburne returned to the same area in the winter of 1996. We conclude that differences in foraging conditions during summer rather than differential mortality rates in winter account for contrasting population trends previously documented in those two colonies.
Additional publication details
Seasonal movements and pelagic habitat use of Murres and Puffins determined by satellite telemetry