Birds at-sea increase body mass as a consequence of food consumption and plumage wettability. However, little is known about the effect of maximum extra load on takeoff of aquatic birds. Experimental evaluation of maximum load-lift during takeoff was performed on a wing-propelled diver with high wing loading, Cassin's Auklet Ptychoramphus aleuticus, and on a surface feeder with low wing loading, Leach's Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa. Leach's Storm-Petrel supported a maximum extra load of 45% of its body mass, and that of Cassin's Auklet was 25%. The relation of maximal load to food transport and plumage wettability indicates that the storm-petrel and the alcid maintain safety load margins of 31% and 8% of the maximum supported extra load during takeoff, respectively. Load margin showed by storm-petrels suggests an enhanced flight performance, increasing specific lift during foraging; meanwhile that of auklets allows for reduction of specific buoyancy during diving.
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