Marine Biology

, Volume 162, Issue 7, pp 1417–1428 | Cite as

Sexually distinct foraging strategies in an omnivorous seabird

  • Kees C. J. CamphuysenEmail author
  • Judy Shamoun-Baranes
  • E. Emiel van Loon
  • Willem Bouten
Original Paper


Intra-specific differences in foraging behaviour can have fitness consequences, especially during breeding. We combined GPS tracking data from 34 lesser black-backed gulls (Larus fuscus) encompassing 2029 foraging trips with dietary information and morphometric measurements to test the effect of breeding status and sex as well as body size on foraging behaviour. We found sexually distinct foraging strategies in this generalist seabird, which were maintained throughout the breeding season. The larger males travelled further from the colony than females, spent more time offshore, and remained longer at the nest during nest bouts. Males fed mostly on fisheries discards at offshore trawlers with few alternative resources nearby. Females foraged predominantly on land or nearshore and in the Wadden Sea, where they had multiple foraging options. Individuals differed in foraging behaviour along a continuum of predominantly terrestrial to predominantly marine foragers. Foraging range, trip duration, and the proportion of time at sea increased with wing length. Our findings did not support the usual inference that sexual segregation is mediated primarily by differences in competitive strength as both sexes foraged substantially in competitive settings around fishing vessels, but in different habitats. Females accessed a wider variety of resources and a broad prey spectrum, by exploring a whole suite of foraging opportunities and habitats nearer the colony. Different behavioural strategies (a combination of individual specialisation and sexual segregation) during breeding could reduce intra-specific resource competition, competition between the sexes (and hence within a pair), or alternatively, reduce the risk of unbalanced food provisioning.


Wing Length Prey Type Breeding Status Sexual Segregation Trip Duration 
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These studies are part of a long-term demographical and ecological study on sympatric breeding gulls by the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) at Texel. We are grateful to Staatsbosbeheer Texel for permission to work in Kelderhuispolder, a nature reserve closed for the general public. We are particularly thankful to Aris Ellen, Marcel Groenendaal, and Erik van der Spek for help and cooperation. A ringing licence was supplied every year by Vogeltrekstation, Heteren. The Royal NIOZ provided the necessary facilities and finances for these studies, and many NIOZ staff have contributed one way or the other. Cosme Damian Romay, Rim Lucassen, and Janne Ouwehand, all as students, assisted with field operations. We are grateful to Arnold Gronert who skilfully assisted with fieldwork during all years. We thank Edwin Baaij for technical support with UvA-BiTS and Michael Kemp for initial R scripts. The research infrastructure was supported by BiG-grid, LifeWatch, and the Dutch national e-science centre. We thank two anonymous referees for useful and constructive comments.

Supplementary material

227_2015_2678_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 26 kb)
227_2015_2678_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (116 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 116 kb)
227_2015_2678_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (108 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 108 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kees C. J. Camphuysen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Judy Shamoun-Baranes
    • 2
  • E. Emiel van Loon
    • 2
  • Willem Bouten
    • 2
  1. 1.Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, NIOZDen Burg, TexelThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Computational Geo-Ecology, IBEDUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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