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Factors affecting breeding distribution of Storm-petrels <i>Hydrobates pelagicus</i> in Orkney and Shetland Capsule The main factors are past and present human activities, especially the introduction of rats to islands

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  • Ql Zoology
  • Ge Environmental Sciences

Abstract

Aims: To assess factors that influence breeding distribution and abundance of Storm-petrel. Methods: We used a database for 142 islands in Shetland and Orkney. Breeding status of Storm-petrel was related to data for each island on introduced and indigenous predators, other human-related features, and aspects of island geography. Results: Although 92% of the total land area of the archipelagos comprised islands with rats present, Storm-petrel colonies were almost totally restricted to rat-free islands. They also occurred more frequently on islands with cliffs, far from neighbouring islands with humans, and on islands with a low rate of human visits. Colony size was smaller on the smallest occupied islands. Breeding numbers of Great Skuas Stercorarius skua, Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus, and Storm-petrels all correlated, as each increased with island size. Conclusions The presence or absence of rats is the single most important influence on Storm-petrel breeding distribution in Orkney and Shetland. However, geographical and human-related effects, such as the presence of cliffs or the occurrence of human visits, also appear to influence the distribution of Storm-petrels, whereas avian predators appear to have had little effect until now.

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