Least auklets Aethia pusilla and crested auklets A. cristatella are abundant planktivorous seabirds found throughout the Bering Sea and are inextricably linked to the secondary productivity of this northern marine ecosystem. We assessed the relationship between productivity and diet in least and crested auklets by examining breeding chronology, daily survival rates (DSR) of chicks, and nestling diet composition at 2 mixed colonies on St. Lawrence Island in the northern Bering Sea during the 2000 to 2002 breeding seasons. Nestlings of both least and crested auklets hatched earlier, had higher survival rates, and were fed more of the large, oceanic copepod Neocalanus cristatus in 2002 compared to the 2 yr of lower chick survival. In contrast, during the year of lowest DSR for both auklet species (2001), the small copepod Calanus marshallae was more prevalent in the diet of least auklets and the mid-sized copepod N. flemingeri was more prevalent in the diet of crested auklets compared to the other 2 yr. The prevalence of oceanic copepods in meals fed to chicks explained much of the annual variation in DSR in least auklets. Interannual differences in timing of nest initiation, nest survival, and diet of least and crested auklets may be associated with the strength of the cold, nutrient-rich Anadyr Current, which passes in close proximity to St. Lawrence Island and has important influences on zooplankton productivity and distribution. Auklet productivity and diet composition may serve as key indicators in the overall effort to monitor the impact of climate change on the productivity of the Bering Sea. ?? Inter-Research 2006.
Additional publication details
Differential response in chick survival to diet in least and crested auklets