Volume 16 (2017) Issue 1 Pages 17-22
There is increasing evidence showing that wind velocity affects the flight and foraging behavior of seabirds; however, few studies have examined these effects on seabirds inhabiting tropical oceans where lighter wind conditions usually prevail. The Brown Booby Sula leucogaster is an example of a tropical seabird with relatively low wing loading; strong wind conditions may be expected to impede the stability of their flight. We examined how different wind conditions affected the duration and flying behavior of Brown Booby fledglings during foraging trips by means of direct observation of nest attendance and by attaching video loggers to birds. The duration of foraging trips by fledglings decreased with increasing wind speed, and during flight, the body rotation of fledglings became greater with increasing wind speed. As expected, fledglings were buffeted by strong winds due to their relative inexperience in flight combined with their low wing loading. Fledglings were probably forced to flap against strong winds in order to adjust the stability of their bodies, offsetting the efficient use of wind for gliding. Furthermore, the height at which fledglings flew fluctuated more at higher wind velocities, which may have constrained their detection and capture of prey. In conclusion, our results indicate that the aerodynamic performance of Brown Booby fledglings is impaired by strong wind conditions, leading to poor flight stability and potentially reduced prey detection.