Sparse and patchy distribution of prey in the largest habitat on Earth requires the highest level of efficiency while foraging. Even though the energetic cost of flight in Procellariiforms is the lowest among the birds, long duration and long range of foraging trips indicate that finding food over the ocean is not an easy task.
Data on diet composition and foraging techniques have accumulated over years. However, little is known about the sensory aspect of seabird foraging behaviour. Olfaction has been shown to play an important role in finding rich foraging grounds or single items of the carrion, but visual recruitment by other sea predators is known very well too. However, neither modelling studies on seabird visual recruitment, nor underwater prey capture include any real values of seabird visual systems.
Spatial resolution, contrast sensitivity and optical sensitivity are the main parameters, which together with bird flight and oceanographic data can help us to understand how easily seabirds can spot shipping vessels, seabird or sea mammal aggregations as well as detect the prey on and in the water.
Supervised by Almut Kelber, I started my PhD project in October 2010 working on small Procellariiform seabird – Leach’s storm-petrel. Later we looked at Northern fulmar, as interesting species for comparison. While still working on both procellariiforms, now our interest expands to other seabirds too. We combine anatomical, optical and behavioural methods and carry out research in the lab as well as in the field.