Inter-colony and inter-annual variation in discard use by albatross chicks revealed using isotopes and regurgitates

Amanda Kuepfer*, Paulo Catry, Stuart Bearhop, Richard B. Sherley, Olivia Bell, Jason Newton, Paul Brickle, Alexander Arkhipkin, Stephen C. Votier

*Corresponding author for this work

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Effective marine ecosystem monitoring is critical for sustainable management. Monitoring seabird diets can convey important information on ecosystem health and seabird–fishery interactions. The diet of breeding black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) has previously been assessed using stomach content analysis (SCA) or stable isotope analysis (SIA), but not both methods together. Combining dietary sampling approaches reduces biases associated with using single methods. This study combines SCA and SIA to study the diet of black-browed albatross chicks, with a specific focus on fishery discard consumption, at two Falkland Islands colonies (New Island 51°43′S, 61°18′W and Steeple Jason Island 51°01′S, 61°13′W) during two consecutive breeding seasons (2019 and 2020). SCA provided high taxonomic resolution of short-term diet and priors for stable isotope mixing models, with multiple measures of dietary items (e.g. numeric frequency N%, frequency of occurrence FO%). By contrast, SIA of down feathers provided a single and more integrated dietary signal from throughout chick development. Although the two methods disagreed on the dominant prey group (SCA—crustacean; SIA—pelagic fish), the complementary information suggested a chick diet dominated by natural prey (SCA: 74%–93% [FO], 44%–98% [N]; SIA: minimum 87%–95% contribution). Nonetheless, SCA revealed that a high proportion of breeding adults do take discards. We detected consistent colony-specific diets in relation to prey species, but not in relation to higher discard use. Overall, discard consumption was highest in 2020, the year characterised by the poorest foraging conditions. Our results have implications for fisheries management and future dietary studies assessing discard use.
Original languageEnglish
Article number46
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number4
Early online date16 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Original Paper
  • Fishery discards
  • Seabird diet
  • Stomach content analysis
  • Stable isotope analysis
  • Thalassarche melanophris


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