Breeding failure induces large scale prospecting movements in the black-legged kittiwake

Aurore Ponchon* (Corresponding Author), Thierry Chambert, Elisa Lobato, Torkild Tveraa, David Gremillet, Thierry Boulinier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Before making dispersal decisions, many species are known to gather social information by prospecting potential future breeding sites, especially when they have failed breeding. So far, the role of current breeding performance on the occurrence of prospecting movements has mainly been studied at limited spatial scales, because of difficulties in tracking free-ranging, fast-moving individuals between distant breeding patches. Little information is thus available on individual behaviour and the spatial extent of prospecting movements in response to breeding failure. To address this issue, black-legged kittiwakes which breeding success was manipulated were tracked with GPS at the end of incubation in two Norwegian colonies. Crucially, and as predicted, prospecting visits to other breeding colonies were recorded in 33% of artificially-failed breeders, but never in successful ones. They occurred at large (40 km) as well as local spatial scales (1 km). Time-budgets of successful and failed breeders differed significantly in terms of trip duration, but also foraging, resting and nesting propensities. These results provide important elements to assess trade-offs between prospecting and other activities. They show that a substantial proportion of failed breeders prospect as early as within a week after failure at the egg stage and suggest that these individuals assess their options of future reproduction by prospecting alternative areas, although dispersal decisions may also involve more complex behavioural processes. Because they link breeding colonies situated tens of kilometres apart, prospecting movements may have critical implications for the dynamics of subdivided populations. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-145
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Early online date10 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • Breeding habitat selection
  • Conspecific reproductive success
  • Dispersal decisions
  • Rissa tridactyla
  • Site fidelity
  • Social information use


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