KITTIWAKES-Mating

They mate for life and work hard raising a family. We’re talking about Kittiwakes- small sea birds who have spent most of the summer in mated pairs, rearing their young. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Robert Suryan is a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska.

“For the most part Kittiwakes are long lived, as typical of most sea birds. And it takes quite a bit of coordination between the male and the female to bring off a successful chick or a couple of chicks when the fish that they’re hunting or searching for is real patchy in distribution and sometimes hard to obtain and can be real variable. So they have to coordinate, to make things successful. So they do tend to mate for life.”

Once the Kittiwakes leave their breeding sites, they’ll spend most of the winter on the ocean, away from the observation and study of scientists.

“And we don’t know whether they spend the winter together. One thing that we see is that there’s a lot of courtship and pair bonding right when they arrive back at the colonies in the spring and then we also see that same thing in the fall. As the breeding season is ending, we’re seeing this happen again, where they’re displaying toward each other. We see birds copulating, and of course, they’re just kind of mock copulations, but it might be that they’re reaffirming their pair bonds, and we don’t know whether they spend the winter together or not, but seeing things like that, it makes you kind of think that maybe they don’t. You know, maybe they do go their separate ways and they meet back at the colony. But that’s definitely a mystery still.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

KITTIWAKES-Mating

Are Kittiwakes mates for all seasons, or fair weather friends?
Air Date:08/06/1999
Scientist:
Transcript:

They mate for life and work hard raising a family. We're talking about Kittiwakes- small sea birds who have spent most of the summer in mated pairs, rearing their young. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

Robert Suryan is a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska.

"For the most part Kittiwakes are long lived, as typical of most sea birds. And it takes quite a bit of coordination between the male and the female to bring off a successful chick or a couple of chicks when the fish that they're hunting or searching for is real patchy in distribution and sometimes hard to obtain and can be real variable. So they have to coordinate, to make things successful. So they do tend to mate for life."

Once the Kittiwakes leave their breeding sites, they'll spend most of the winter on the ocean, away from the observation and study of scientists.

"And we don't know whether they spend the winter together. One thing that we see is that there's a lot of courtship and pair bonding right when they arrive back at the colonies in the spring and then we also see that same thing in the fall. As the breeding season is ending, we're seeing this happen again, where they're displaying toward each other. We see birds copulating, and of course, they're just kind of mock copulations, but it might be that they're reaffirming their pair bonds, and we don't know whether they spend the winter together or not, but seeing things like that, it makes you kind of think that maybe they don't. You know, maybe they do go their separate ways and they meet back at the colony. But that's definitely a mystery still."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.