Resource partitioning between sympatric seabird species increases during chick‐rearing
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Resource partitioning between sympatric seabird species increases during chick‐rearing

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    Partitioning of resources by competing species of seabirds may increase during periods of food shortages and elevated energy demands. Here, we examined whether food resource partitioning (differential use of foraging habitat or the consumption of different prey species) between common murres (COMU, Uria aalge) and thick‐billed murres (TBMU, U. lomvia) breeding on the same colony in the Bering Sea increases with a predictable increase in energy demands between the incubation and chick‐rearing stages of reproduction. We assessed the seasonal dynamics of food availability via corticosterone (CORT) levels and examined adult diet (via stable isotope analysis of nitrogen and carbon, SI) and chick diets (based on nest observations). We compared chick provisioning patterns and examined the characteristics of parental foraging habitat via deployment of bird‐borne temperature‐depth recorders. We found that CORT levels remained low and similar between the species and reproductive stages, reflecting relatively stable and favorable foraging conditions for both murre species during the study period. Comparisons of SI between murres and their potential prey indicated that diets were similar between the species during incubation and diverged during chick‐rearing. Chick‐rearing common and thick‐billed murres also used different foraging habitats, as reflected in travel distances to foraging areas and sea surface temperature distributions of their foraging dives. TBMUs performed shorter foraging trips, deeper dives and delivered squid to their chicks, while COMUs foraged farther from the colony, performed shallower dives, and delivered fish species to their chicks. These results suggest that food resource partitioning between murre species increased during chick‐rearing under favorable foraging conditions. Whether the dietary segregation reflected species‐specific differences in adults' foraging efficiency, differences in chicks' dietary requirements, or was a way of reducing competition remains unknown. Regardless of the causal mechanism(s), food resource partitioning might ameliorate interspecific competition between sympatrically breeding birds during periods of increased energy demands.
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    Ecosphere, 7(9)
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    CC BY
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