The Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) is the most widespread cormorant in the North Pacific, but little is known about its foraging and diving behavior. However, knowledge of seabirds' foraging behavior is important to understanding their function in the marine environment. In 2006, using GPS dataloggers, we studied the foraging behavior of 14 male Pelagic Cormorants rearing chicks on Middleton Island, Alaska. For foraging, the birds had high fidelity to a small area 8 km north of the colony. Within that area, the cormorants' diving activity was of two distinct kinds—near-surface dives (1–6 m) and benthic dives (28–33 m). Individuals were consistent in the depths of their dives, either mostly shallow or mostly deep. Few showed no depth preference. Dive duration, time at maximum depth, and pauses at the water surface between consecutive dives were shorter for shallow dives than for deep dives. The cormorants made dives of both types throughout the day, but the frequency of deep dives increased toward evening. Maximum foraging range was 9 km; maximum total distance traveled per trip was 43.4 km. Trip durations ranged from 0.3 to 7.7 hr. Maximum depth of a dive was 42.2 m, and duration of dives ranged from 4 to 120 sec. We found that Pelagic Cormorants at Middleton Island were faithful to one particular foraging area and individuals dived in distinct patterns. Distinct, specialized foraging behavior may be advantageous in reducing intra- and interspecific competition but may also render the species vulnerable to changing environmental conditions.
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Vol. 113 • No. 1