Comparison of assemblages and some life-history traits of seabirds in the Humboldt and Benguela systems

R. J.M. Crawford, E. Goya, J. P. Roux, C. B. Zavalaga

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


There are 21 and 15 species of seabirds that breed in the Humboldt and Benguela upwelling systems respectively. Only two species of gull are common to both systems, one as an endemic subspecies to the Benguela system. Eleven species and two subspecies are endemic (or nearly so) to the Humboldt system; seven species and one subspecies to the Benguela system. Each system has an endemic penguin, sulid, cormorant and tern that feed mainly on anchovy Engraulis spp., sardine Sardinops sagax or both these fish. The Peruvian pelican Pelecanus thagus also feeds primarily on these prey items. A plentiful availability of food has resulted in many of these seabirds attaining high levels of abundance. For the four pairs of species that feed on anchovy and sardine, those in the Humboldt system all have a biology that enables them to increase more rapidly than their Benguela counterparts. This reflects the higher frequency of environmental perturbations that depress seabird populations in the Humboldt system. In addition, both systems have a small endemic cormorant that feeds near the coast and a small endemic tern that breeds in the adjacent mainland desert and feeds at the sea surface. Several seabirds endemic to a system have no obvious ecological equivalent in the other system: the pelican, a diving-petrel, four storm-petrels and a gull in the Humboldt system; a cormorant and a gull in the Benguela system. Some species with tropical or subantarctic affinities breed at the boundaries of the systems. Others breed also in freshwater systems. The grey gull Larus modestus, which feeds in the Humboldt system, breeds in montane deserts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-560
Number of pages8
JournalAfrican Journal of Marine Science
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • Anchovy
  • Benguela
  • Demographic parameter
  • Environmental perturbation
  • Humboldt
  • Sardine
  • Seabird assemblage


Dive into the research topics of 'Comparison of assemblages and some life-history traits of seabirds in the Humboldt and Benguela systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this