Seabird morphology determines operational wind speeds, tolerable maxima, and responses to extremes
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The breeding ranges of different seabird species appear to be tied to particular wind-speed niches based on each species’ wing size relatively to their body mass.
Some seabirds are better suited to dealing with strong winds than others, but it’s not clear how seabirds’ wing and body sizes affect their behaviour in different wind environments.
Now, a team that included researchers from the University of Cape Town in South Africa has tracked more than 1,600 foraging trips by 18 species of seabirds and examined the wind speeds experienced by the birds during every hour of those trips.
They found that the birds didn’t appear to change their foraging flights according to changes in wind speed, nor was there much variation in wind speeds at the nesting locations. This suggests that the seabirds instead occupied a wind niche that suited their flying abilities.
- Current Biology 33, 1179–1184 (2023). doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.01.068