Red-legged Cormorants (Phalacrocorax gaimardi) breed along a broad stretch of the Pacific coast and a section of the Argentinian coast on the Atlantic Ocean. To understand factors that might determine the breeding range along Argentina, physical and environmental characteristics of cliffed coastlines used by Red-legged Cormorants were compared with those not used. Red-legged Cormorant colonies were found in longer cliffed coastlines (mostly longer than 250 m) with shallow waters (median depth =12 m) and high sea productivity close to the coast (median chlorophyll a concentration = 4.4 mg/m3). Within the Red-legged Cormorants' breeding range the probability of occurrence of their colonies increased with the length of the cliffed coastline and decreased with the median sea depth around the colony. Mixed colonies were found in coastal areas with cliffs where the seawater close to shore was deeper (deeper than = 13 m). North of its distribution, sea productivity close to the coast was lower (median chlorophyll a concentration = 1.6 mg/m3) than within its distribution, and cliff faces were more exposed to the strong prevailing winds, which can blow eggs and chicks from their nests. South of its distribution, the climatic characteristics were more adverse to breeding success: higher precipitation, lower ambient temperature, and higher wind speed than within its distribution. At this scale of study (regional), new aspects of habitat structure of the Red-legged Cormorant, such as sea primary production, water depths and climatic features, were indentified. All these aspects could be affecting habitat selections by this species.
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Vol. 35 • No. 2