The foraging habits of fairy penguins have been tracked for the first time during their breeding season.
The little penguins are the smallest penguin species and they live exclusively in southern Australia, New Zealand, and the Chatham Islands, but spend most of their lives at sea in search of food.
Not much is known about group foraging behaviour due to the difficulty in observing their remote feeding grounds.
Maud Berlincourt and John Arnould from Deakin University used GPS location and diving data to track at-sea foraging associations of little penguins during breeding season.
The researchers gathered 84 separate foraging tracks and then categorized individual penguin associations into one of three groups: not associating with other penguins; associating when departing from or returning to the colony; or at sea when travelling or diving, including synchronized dives.
The authors found that 70% of little penguins’ foraging tracks were in association with other penguins, 50% of individuals dove while associating with other penguins, and 40% exhibited synchronous diving.
The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE by
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