Marine Biology

, Volume 143, Issue 1, pp 199–207 | Cite as

Distribution, diet and habitat selection by four sympatrically breeding gull species in the south-eastern North Sea

Article

Abstract

Food choice, feeding habitat use and spatial distribution of black-headed gulls (Larus ridibundus), mew gulls (L. canus), herring gulls (L. argentatus) and lesser black-backed gulls (L. fuscus) were studied in the south-eastern North Sea. At-sea distribution during the breeding period was assessed by transect counts from ships. Clear differences could be established between the four species, with lesser black-backed gulls being widespread and numerous far out at sea and mew and black-headed gulls being restricted to the coastal area; herring gulls showed an intermediate pattern. The diet of these sympatrically breeding gulls was analysed from pellet and faecal samples collected at two colonies. Considering biases in this method, the following components appeared to comprise the principal food for each species: black-headed gulls: bivalves, crustaceans; mew gulls: bivalves, polychaetes; herring gulls: bivalves, crustaceans; and lesser black-backed gulls: fish and crustaceans. Black-headed and mew gulls had much broader dietary niches than herring and lesser black-backed gulls. Based on spatial distribution, food choice and feeding habitat use, three types of foraging strategies are apparent: (1) black-headed and mew gulls forage both intertidally and on land, (2) herring gulls feed most frequently in the intertidal zone and (3) lesser black-backed gulls feed at sea. The foraging behaviour of these four species may well have influenced their current population trends in the study area.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research and Technology Centre (FTZ)University of KielBüsumGermany
  2. 2.Dept. Marine EcologyInstitut für MeereskundeKielGermany
  3. 3.InselstationInstitut für Vogelforschung "Vogelwarte Helgoland"HelgolandGermany

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