, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 809-814

Nocturnal behavior of gulls in coastal New Jersey

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Abstract

We studied the behavior of gulls at night with an image intensifier telescope to determine whether they were active at night, and the extent of their foraging in coastal habitats of New Jersey in the summer, fall, and winter of 1989–1990. Regression models and Kruskal-Wallis tests indicated that date, time of day, tide, cloud cover, moon phase, and study location all influenced variations in the presence and nocturnal activities of gulls. For each site and species, an, average of 48–88% of the nocturnal surveys recorded gulls foraging or flying about. More laughing gulls (Larus atricilla) foraged at night at Brigantine Beach compared to ring-billed gulls (L. delawarensis) at the northern New Jersey sites. However, more gulls were flying about at the Raritan River site compared to the other places. We suggest that more laughing gulls fed at night compared to ring-billed gulls because the former were breeding. Breeding gulls spend half their time incubating or caring for chicks, and thus might have time constraints on foraging during the day. Laughing gulls foraged at all times of the night on some surveys, but were more frequent around midnight, and the number of flying laughing gulls decreased after 0200 hours. Ring-billed gulls, however, seemed to be equally active all night. Our data indicate that gulls can be active all night, and in all habitats.