Albatrosses (Diomedeidae) are the most threatened family of birds globally. The three North Pacific species (Phoebastria Reichenbach, 1853) are listed as either endangered or vulnerable, with the population of Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus (Pallas, 1769)) less than 1% of its historical size. All North Pacific albatross species do not currently breed sympatrically, yet they do co-occur at-sea during the nonbreeding season. We incorporated stable isotope analysis with the first simultaneous satellite-tracking study of all three North Pacific albatross species while sympatric on summer (nonbreeding season) foraging grounds off Alaska. Carbon isotope ratios and tracking data identify differences in primary foraging domains of continental shelf and slope waters for Short-tailed Albatrosses and Black-footed Albatrosses (Phoebastria nigripes (Audubon, 1839)) versus oceanic waters for Laysan Albatrosses (Phoebastria immutabilis (Roths-child, 1893)). Short-tailed and Black-footed albatrosses also fed at higher trophic levels than Laysan Albatrosses. The relative trophic position of Black-footed and Laysan albatrosses, however, appears to differ between nonbreeding and breeding seasons. Spatial segregation also occurred at a broader geographic scale, with Short-tailed Albatrosses ranging more north into the Bering Sea than Black-footed Albatrosses, which ranged more to the southeast, and Laysan Albatrosses more to the southwest. Differences in carbon isotope ratios among North Pacific albatross species during the nonbreeding season likely reflect the relative proportion of neritic (more carbon enriched) versus oceanic (carbon depleted) derived nutrients, and possible differential use of fishery discards, rather than latitudinal differences in distribution.
Additional publication details
Stable isotope analysis and satellite tracking reveal interspecific resource partitioning of nonbreeding albatrosses off Alaska