JULY 10, 2019
Little is known about how seabirds catch their food outside the breeding season but using modern technology, researchers at the University of Liverpool and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology have gained new insight into their feeding habits.
Seabirds, including puffins, are often elusive and spend much of their lives at sea, feeding exclusively there. The period outside of the summer breeding season is particularly mysterious as the birds spend their time far away from land.
Using depth recorders, researchers compared the feeding behaviour of puffins with two closely related species, guillemots and razorbills, to find out how deep and how long they dive for during the non-breeding period.
They also fitted loggers to seabirds breeding on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve in south-east Scotland. These birds were then recaptured the following breeding season, when they returned to land again after months away at sea.
Puffins are excellent divers and, in a similar way to penguins, use their wings to "fly" underwater to catch their prey.
Yet the study found that despite this great diving ability, both common guillemots and razorbills can dive for even deeper and longer than puffins can and continue to do so outside the breeding season.