The highly mobile wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) explore the Southern Ocean around the Antarctic continent, where they spend several decades of their life foraging, breeding and moving well over 18 000 km in one year across open ocean. They are adapted to navigate the extreme environment open ocean and return to isolated islands to breed. Despite this being one of the most charismatic bird species we still have had very limited knowledge about the dispersal flights and migration of young albatrosses, but also to which zones different populations as well as birds of different age and sexes move. Knowledge which is central for the conservation of the species.
|Wandering albatross Diomedea exulans; Photo: Susanne Åkesson|
In a newly published study in PLoS ONE we tracked, by satellite telemetry, the departure dispersal of 13 juvenile wandering albatrosses from the Crozet Islands and compared them with tracks of 7 unrelated adults during the interbreeding season. We used the satellite tracks to identify different behavioural steps of the inherited migration program used by juvenile wandering albatrosses during their first solo-migration. Our results show that the juvenile wandering albatrosses from Crozet Islands moved to sex-specific foraging zones of the ocean using at departures selectively the wind. The birds’ departure flights coincided with tailwinds from southwest. The results suggest that the inherited migration program used by the juvenile wandering albatrosses encode several distinct steps, based on inherited preferred departure routes, differences in migration distance between sexes, and selective use of winds. During long transportation flights the albatrosses were influenced by winds and both adult and juveniles followed approximate loxodrome (rhumbline) routes coinciding with the foraging zone and the specific latitudes of their destination areas. During the long segments of transportation flights across open seas the juveniles selected routes at more northerly latitudes than adults.