Wing ecomorphology of seabirds from Johnston atoll

Wing morphology of nine species of seabirds from Johnston Atoll in the central tropical Pacific was analyzed to determine how wing size and shape correlated with observed foraging behavior and, in some species, the energetic cost of flight. Red-tailed Tropicbirds (Phaethon rubricauda) and Christmas Shearwaters (Puffinus nativitatis) had lower wing areas, shorter wing spans, and higher relative wing loading than would be predicted from mass alone. Brown Noddies (Anous stolidus) and Red-footed Boobies (Sula sula) had lower wing loading, Brown Boobies (Sula leucogaster) and Sooty Terns (Sterna fuscata) had higher aspect ratios, and Brown Noddies had lower aspect ratio than would be predicted from mass alone. Aspect ratio showed greater intraspecific variation than the other variables. In most cases, predicted differences in wing morphology correlated well with observed foraging differences among species, and species that did not differ significantly in body mass differed with respect to wing size and shape; these morphological differences reflected varying flight and foraging behaviors. Sooty Terns had a higher aspect ratio and higher wing loading than Brown Noddies reflecting their more pelagic lifestyle, and Christmas Shearwaters had a lower aspect ratio and higher wing loading than Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (Puffinus pacificus) reflecting their pursuit plunging behavior.