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New biologging approach reveals unique flightless moult strategies of Atlantic puffins
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  • Jamie Darby,
  • Mike Harris,
  • Sarah Wanless,
  • John Quinn,
  • Vegard Sandøy Bråthen,
  • Annette Fayet,
  • Manon clairbaux,
  • Tom Hart,
  • Tim Guilford,
  • Robin Freeman,
  • Mark Jessopp
Jamie Darby
University College Cork

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Mike Harris
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
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Sarah Wanless
NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
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John Quinn
University College Cork
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Vegard Sandøy Bråthen
Norwegian Institute for Nature Research
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Annette Fayet
Oxford University
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Manon clairbaux
University College Cork College of Science Engineering and Food Science
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Tom Hart
University of Oxford
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Tim Guilford
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Robin Freeman
Zoological Society of London Institute of Zoology
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Mark Jessopp
University College Cork
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Animal-borne telemetry devices provide essential insights into the life-history strategies of far-ranging species and allow us to understand how they interact with their environment. Many species in the seabird family Alcidae undergo a synchronous moult of all primary flight feathers during the non-breeding season, making them flightless and more susceptible to environmental stressors, including severe storms and prey shortages. However, the timing and location of moult remains largely unknown, with most information coming from studies on birds killed by storms or shot at sea. Using light-level geolocators with saltwater immersion loggers, we develop a method for determining flightless periods in the context of the annual cycle. Four Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) were equipped with geolocator/immersion loggers on each leg to attempt to overcome issues of leg-tucking in plumage while sitting on the water, which confounds the interpretation of logger data. Light level and saltwater immersion time-series data were combined to correct for this issue. This approach was adapted and applied to 40 puffins equipped with the standard practice deployments of geolocators on one leg only. Flightless periods consistent with moult were identified in the dual-equipped birds, whereas moult identification in single-equipped birds was less definitive and should be treated with caution. Within the dual-equipped sample, we present evidence for two flightless moult periods per non-breeding season in two puffins that undertook more extensive migrations (> 2000km), and were flightless for up to 76 days in a single non-breeding season. A biannual flight feather moult is highly unusual among non-passerine birds, and may be unique to birds that undergo catastrophic moult, i.e. become flightless when moulting. Though our conclusions are based on a small sample, we have established a freely available methodological framework for future investigation of the moult patterns of this and other seabird species.
08 Jun 2022Submission Checks Completed
08 Jun 2022Assigned to Editor
08 Jun 2022Reviewer(s) Assigned
29 Jun 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
22 Jul 2022Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
22 Sep 20221st Revision Received
22 Sep 2022Submission Checks Completed
22 Sep 2022Assigned to Editor
22 Sep 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
12 Oct 2022Reviewer(s) Assigned
10 Nov 2022Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
12 Nov 20222nd Revision Received
13 Nov 2022Assigned to Editor
13 Nov 2022Submission Checks Completed
13 Nov 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
14 Nov 2022Editorial Decision: Accept