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Synchronized group association in little penguins, Eudyptula Minor.
journal contributionposted on 2007-11-01, 00:00 authored by T Daniel, A Chiaradia, M Logan, Gerry QuinnGerry Quinn, R Reina
Most seabirds form groups on land and at sea, but there is little information whether seabird groups are formed deliberately or randomly. We investigated whether little penguins formed groups composed of the same individuals when they crossed the beach each day over four breeding seasons (2001–2004) using an automated penguin monitoring system (APMS). We used an association matrix to determine the number of times any two birds crossed the APMS in the same group. The number of these group associations or ‘synchronized parade’ behaviour was determined for every possible pair of individuals, giving a total association value for each pair of birds during the postguard stage of the reproductive cycle. We concluded that a penguin group was composed of 5–10 individuals within 40-s intervals. Penguin groups were formed nonrandomly in years of high breeding success (2002 and 2003), but not in years of low breeding success (2001 and 2004). Age of birds was a significant factor in composition of groups. Little penguins with higher association values shared similar characteristics or ‘quality’, which in turn may increase the functional efficiency of their groups, especially if they are also foraging together. However, low association indices indicated that seeking the same associates was not a priority. It is costly for any animal to synchronize their attendance with the same individuals, so it could be beneficial to display synchronized parade behaviour in good breeding years but it could result in intraspecific competition for food during poor breeding years.