10 Oct 2012
Habitat Utilization and Breeding Success of Leach’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa)

BRANTA — Iain J. Stenhouse

Habitat Utilization and Breeding Success of Leach’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa)

Institution: Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
Supervisors: WA Montevecchi
Details: MSc 1998 (Completed)

Address: Audubon Alaska, 715 L Street, Suite 200, Anchorage, AK 99501, USA (Nov 2005) Email

Subject Keywords: breeding success, burrow occupancy rates, gull predation, habitat use, predation risk
Species Keywords: Leach’s Storm-Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa



It is generally assumed that individual organisms behave optimally. In terms of habitat utilization, the optimal habitat for any species is that which provides the optimum conditions for survival and reproduction.

This study compared how Leach’s Storm-Petrels, Oceanodroma leucorhoa, utilized forest and open habitat on Great Island, Newfoundland. Specifically, nesting habitats were compared in terms of slope, aspect, and peat compaction. The adaptive significance of habitat utilization was assessed through comparisons of burrow density, the proportions of active and occupied burrows, hatching success, chick growth, breeding success, and predation risk.

Forest and open habitats differed; open habitat has steeper slope and more compact soil than forest, which had deeper peat. Burrow density and activity were greater in forest than open habitat, indicating that Leach’s Storm-Petrels actively selected forest over open habitat. Clearly, based on area, forest habitat supported a greater number of breeding pairs. Moreover, birds nesting in forest exhibited greater hatching and breeding success than birds nesting in open habitat, thus storm-petrels nesting in forest were disproportionately more productive than storm-petrels nesting in open habitat.

Avian predation of Leach’s Storm-Petrels did not differ between forest and open habitats, but varied seasonally in both. Predation was much reduced in both habitats following the inshore movement of spawning Capelin, Mallotus villosus.

The terrestrial flora of the habitats utilized by Leach’s Storm-Petrels change over time, being influenced by other seabirds (e.g. gulls and puffins on Great Island). Forest habitat is estimated to have decreased by 17 % on Great Island over the past 25 years. Open habitat has been expanding, which will negatively affect the overall productivity of the Leach’s Storm-Petrel colony. Generalizations to other Leach’s Storm-Petrel colonies in the Northwest Atlantic are also made.


Published Papers

Stenhouse, I.J. & Montevecchi, W.A. 2000. Habitat utilization and breeding success in Leach’s Storm-Petrel: the importance of sociality. Canadian Journal of Zoology 78: 1267-1274.
Stenhouse, I.J., Robertson, G.J. & Montevecchi, W.A. 2000. Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) predation on Leach’s Storm-Petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) breeding on Great Island, Newfoundland. Atlantic Seabirds 2: 35-44.
Abbott, M.L., Walsh, C.J., Storey. A.E., Stenhouse, I.J. & Harley, C.W. 1999. Hippocampal volume is related to complexity of nesting habitat in Leach’s Storm-Petrel. Brain, Behavior & Evolution 53: 271-276.
Stenhouse, I.J. & Montevecchi, W.A. 1999. Indirect effects of the availability of capelin and fishery discards: gull predation on breeding storm-petrels. Marine Ecology Progress Series 184: 303-307.
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