Habitat selection and foraging site fidelity in Caspian Terns (Hydroprogne caspia) breeding in the Baltic Sea
Habitat preferences and foraging strategies affect population-level space use and are therefore crucial to understanding population change and implementing spatial conservation and management actions. We investigated the breeding season habitat preference and foraging site fidelity of the under-studied and threatened, Baltic Sea population of Caspian Terns (Hydroprogne caspia). Using GPS devices, we tracked 20 adult individuals at two breeding colonies, in Sweden and Finland, from late incubation through chick-rearing. Analyzing foraging movements during this period, we describe trip characteristics for each colony, daily metrics of effort, habitat use, and foraging site fidelity. We found that daily time spent away from the colony increased throughout the season, with colony-level differences in terms of distance travelled per day. In general, terns selected shallow waters between 0–5 meters in depth with certain individuals using inland lakes for foraging. We show, for the first time, that individual Caspian Terns are faithful to foraging sites throughout the breeding season, and that individuals are highly repeatable in their strategies regarding foraging site fidelity. These results fill important knowledge gaps for this at-risk population, and extend our general knowledge of the breeding season foraging ecology of this widespread species.
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