Storms and heat limit the nest success of Bank Cormorants: implications of future climate change for a surface-nesting seabird in southern Africa

RB Sherley, KL. Ludynia, LG Underhill, R. Jones, J. Kemper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Bank Cormorant Phalacrocorax neglectus is endemic to the Benguela Upwelling System of southern Africa. Most breeding colonies occur on offshore rocks, islands or man-made structures close to the high-water mark. Despite adaptations for breeding close to the water, nests can be lost to storms. Using data from two colonies where food is not considered limiting, we present a comparative study on nest survival in Bank Cormorants. Using a combination of the Mayfield method and parametric survival analysis, nest success was compared in nests on man-made structures at Robben Island, South Africa, where birds breed during the austral winter, with nests on man-made and natural structures at Mercury Island, Namibia, where Bank Cormorants breed during the austral summer. Overall, the probability of a nest surviving the breeding attempt was lower at Robben Island than at Mercury Island in all three seasons. Nest failures at Robben Island were related to wave heights and air temperature, with trends to suggest reduced chick survival in years where major storm events occurred during peak breeding. A heat wave appeared to cause major chick mortality at Mercury Island in 2005. Nest survival was relatively invariable between years at the main site monitored on Mercury Island, where nests were partially sheltered from the sun, but breeding productivity was poor in comparison to other cormorant species. Winter breeding in South Africa may increase the risk from storms but reduce the risk of heat exposure. An understanding of the impact of stochastic events on Bank Cormorants may be important in safe-guarding the continued survival of the species, particularly in light of the risks posed by future climate change.
Translated title of the contributionStorms and heat limit the nest success of Bank Cormorants: implications of future climate change for a surface-nesting seabird in southern Africa
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ornithology
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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