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Medeiros R.J.,University of Cardiff | King R.A.,University of Cardiff | King R.A.,University of Exeter | Symondson W.O.C.,University of Cardiff | And 8 more authors.

Molecular sexing revealed an unexpectedly strong female bias in the sex ratio of pre-breeding European Storm Petrels (Hydrobates pelagicus), attracted to playback of conspecific calls during their northwards migration past SW Europe. This bias was consistent across seven years, ranging from 80.8% to 89.7% female (mean annual sex ratio ± SD = 85.5% female ±4.1%). The sex ratio did not differ significantly from unity (i.e., 50% female) among (i) Storm Petrel chicks at a breeding colony in NW France, (ii) adults found dead on beaches in Southern Portugal, (iii) breeding birds attending nest burrows in the UK, captured by hand, and (iv) adults captured near a breeding colony in the UK using copies of the same sound recordings as used in Southern Europe, indicating that females are not inherently more strongly attracted to playback calls than males. A morphological discriminant function analysis failed to provide a good separation of the sexes, showing the importance of molecular sexing for this species. We found no sex difference in the seasonal or nocturnal timing of migration past Southern Europe, but there was a significant tendency for birds to be caught in sex-specific aggregations. The preponderance of females captured in Southern Europe suggests that the sexes may differ in migration route or in their colony-prospecting behaviour during migration, at sites far away from their natal colonies. Such differences in migration behaviour between males and females are poorly understood but have implications for the vulnerability of seabirds to pollution and environmental change at sea during the non-breeding season. © 2012 Medeiros et al. Source

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