Past and present trophic position and decadal changes in diet of Yellow-legged Gull in the Azores Archipelago, NE Atlantic
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- Pedro, P.I., Ramos, J.A., Neves, V.C. et al. Eur J Wildl Res (2013) 59: 833. doi:10.1007/s10344-013-0737-4
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This study evaluates the trophic position of adult Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis atlantis resident in the Azores archipelago in the past (1921–1928) and in the present (2009–2010), and analyses the decadal variation in the diet of breeding birds from the 1990s to the 2000s for three main colonies (Topo Islet, Baixo Islet and Mistério da Prainha). Using mixing models, we compared stable isotope signatures of nitrogen and carbon in adult breast feathers between birds from 1921 to 1928 (held in museum collections) and 2009 to 2010, jointly with both isotopic signatures of their main prey groups (fish, goose barnacles (Lepas anatifera), seabirds, mammals and refuse). The diet of breeding birds was analysed using pellets collected in 1989, 1995, 1996, 2004, 2009 and 2010. Stable isotopes analysis (SIA) results were in accordance with the results provided from the analysis of pellets, showing a relatively recent and significant change in the diet of adult gulls. In particular, SIA revealed a significant decrease in the trophic position of Yellow-legged Gulls in the Azores, over the last 89 years in response to the decrease in the consumption of seabirds and fish and, an increase in the consumption of marine invertebrates (goose barnacles) and refuse. The analysis of pellets confirmed the significant decrease in the fish ingested, whereas the ingestion of lower trophic level prey (i.e. goose barnacles, mammals and refuse) increased. Both methods reflect the feeding plasticity and opportunistic foraging behavior of this species, and are in accordance with patterns described for continental Europe.