There is growing interest in the effects of wind on wild animals, given evidence that wind speeds are increasing and becoming more variable in some regions, particularly at temperate latitudes. Wind may alter movement patterns or foraging ability, with consequences for energy budgets and, ultimately, demographic rates. These effects are expected to vary among individuals due to intrinsic factors such as sex, age or feeding proficiency. Furthermore, this variation is predicted to become more marked as wind conditions deteriorate, which may have profound consequences for population dynamics as the climate changes. However, the interaction between wind and intrinsic effects has not been comprehensively tested. In many species, in particular those showing sexual size dimorphism, males and females vary in foraging performance. Here, we undertook year-round deployments of data loggers to test for interactions between sex and wind speed and direction on foraging effort in adult European shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis, a pursuit-diving seabird in which males are c. 18% heavier. We found that foraging time was lower at high wind speeds but higher during easterly (onshore) winds. Furthermore, there was an interaction between sex and wind conditions on foraging effort, such that females foraged for longer than males when winds were of greater strength (9% difference at high wind speeds vs. 1% at low wind speeds) and when winds were easterly compared with westerly (7% and 4% difference, respectively). The results supported our prediction that sex-specific differences in foraging effort would become more marked as wind conditions worsen. Since foraging time is linked to demographic rates in this species, our findings are likely to have important consequences for population dynamics by amplifying sex-specific differences in survival rates.
Keywords: Phalacrocorax aristotelis; climate change; demographic rate; environmental perturbation; extreme weather event; seabird; wind.
© 2015 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of the British Ecological Society.