Polar Biology

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 385–394 | Cite as

Diet of the Brown Skua (Stercorarius antarcticus lonnbergi) at Hope Bay, Antarctic Peninsula: differences between breeders and non-breeders

  • Paloma Borghello
  • Diego Sebastián Torres
  • Diego Montalti
  • Andrés Esteban IbañezEmail author
Original Paper


Top predators exhibit a critical role in ecosystem functioning and in the stability of the food web, so research on diet is relevant to understand their foraging behavior. Seasonal variation in diet and prey selection may be the result of fluctuations in the physiological demands during the different annual life cycles, and ecological factors such as resource availability, which may influence the foraging behavior. Moreover, the competition for the feeding territories between conspecifics in a population or with other predators may also lead to diversification of the diet. In this work, we determined the diet of breeding and non-breeding Brown Skuas (Stercorarius antarcticus lonnbergi) at Hope Bay, Antarctic Peninsula, to understand prey selection and the feeding habits of groups with different physiological and energy demands. To assess the breeders’ diet, 204 pellets were collected near the nests, while for non-breeders, 330 pellets were obtained from different areas where they usually group, and prey items were determined. Pellet dimensions were larger in non-breeding skuas. Breeding skuas’ pellets showed a higher content of energy-rich items such as penguin eggs, fishes and molluscs, while in non-breeding skuas, pellets consisted mainly of penguin feathers and bones. The differences in diet between the groups may be a consequence of the supplementation of the food obtained on land by traveling to the ocean by breeding skuas, in order to compensate the energetic demands during reproduction. Our results highlight differences in the feeding habits and prey selection, as well as a variation in the flexibility of the foraging strategy of both groups.


Brown Skua (Stercorarius antarcticus lonnbergiBreeding Non-breeding Diet Pellets Antarctica 



This work was made possible thanks to the Instituto Antártico Argentino (IAA), which provided logistical support and permission to carry out the fieldwork at Bahía Esperanza/Hope Bay, Antarctic Peninsula. This work was supported by Proyecto de Investigación Plurianual (PIP- CONICET no 0158) and Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica and Instituto Antártico Argentino (PICTA-2010-0080) (To DM), and  partially supported by (PICT-2014-3323) (to AEI). Special thanks to Facundo Xavier Palacio for help with statistical analysis, as well as to the Editor and reviewers for their interesting and helpful criticisms for improvement of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

No conflict of interests exists between the authors of this work.

Ethical approval

The protocol of ethical conditions under which this research was carried out was approved by the Program of Environmental Management and Tourism (Argentine Antarctic Institute, Argentine Ministry of Foreign, International Commerce and Worship).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paloma Borghello
    • 1
  • Diego Sebastián Torres
    • 1
  • Diego Montalti
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andrés Esteban Ibañez
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Sección Ornitología, Div. Zool. Vert., Museo de La Plata (FCNyM-UNLP, CONICET)Buenos AiresArgentina
  2. 2.Instituto Antártico Argentino (IAA)Buenos AiresArgentina

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