Fine-scale dietary changes between the breeding and non-breeding diet of a resident seabird

Nicole Daniela Kowalczyk, Andre Chiaradia, Tiana Jayne Preston, Richard Reina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Unlike migratory seabirds with wide foraging ranges, resident seabirds forage in a relatively small range year-round and are thus particularly vulnerable to local shifts in prey availability. In order to manage their populations effectively, it is necessary to identify their key prey across and within years. Here, stomach content and stable isotope analyses were used to reconstruct the diet and isotopic niche of the little penguin (Eudyptula minor). Across years, the diet of penguins was dominated by anchovy (Engraulis australis). Within years, during winter, penguins were consistently enriched in δ15N and δ13C levels relative to premoult penguins. This was probably due to their increased reliance on juvenile anchovies, which dominate prey biomass in winter months. Following winter and during breeding, the δ13C values of penguins declined.We suggest this subtle shift was in response to the increased consumption of prey that enter the bay from offshore regions to spawn. Our findings highlight that penguins have access to both juvenile fish communities and spawning migrants across the year, enabling these seabirds to remain in close proximity to their colony. However, annual fluctuations in penguin isotopic niche suggest that the recruitment success and abundance of fish communities fluctuate dramatically between years. As such, the continued monitoring of penguin diet will be central to their ongoing management.
Original languageEnglish
Article number140291
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Anchovy
  • Isotopic niche
  • Life-stages
  • Opportunist
  • Seabird
  • Stable isotopes

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