Marine Biology

, 166:12 | Cite as

Trophic niche expansion during the non-breeding season in kelp gulls of known breeding colony

  • Nora LisnizerEmail author
  • Pablo Yorio
Original paper


Year-round foraging strategies are key determinants of bird population dynamics. However, trophic ecology studies during the non-breeding period rarely focus on individuals from a known breeding colony, precluding links to demographic aspects of the target population or metapopulation. Using stable isotope analysis (δ15N, δ13C) of primary feathers moulted sequentially after breeding, we tested the trophic niche variation during the non-breeding seasons 2010 and 2011 in Kelp Gulls Larus dominicanus from a colony in coastal Patagonia (43º04′S, 64º29′W), Argentina. Isotopic niche position changed gradually from late summer to late autumn/early winter due to a progressive depletion in δ15N. In addition, niche spread showed a progressive expansion in the same study period. This niche expansion was consistent with the observed differences in the among-individual variability in feeding ecology suggested by niche metrics, being lower during the end of breeding compared to the non-breeding period. Low δ13C values of some feathers suggest that this expansion may be in part driven by the utilization of non-marine food resources/habitats by some individuals.



We thank Paula Giudici, Luciana Gallo, Martín Frixione, Paula Jones, Joanna Castillo, Carolina Oriozabala, and Vet. Virgina Rago for field-work assistance. We also thank Centro Nacional Patagónico (CONICET) for institutional support.


This research was funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society. NL was supported by a postdoctoral scholarship “Beca Puente de Apoyo a la Investigación Científica y Tecnológica” (Chubut Province Government, Argentina). The permits to access the protected area were provided by the “Subsecretaría de Turismo y Áreas Protegidas de la Provincia de Chubut” (DISPOSICIÓN No. 349-SSTyAP/10 and DISPOSICIÓN No. 350-SSTyAP/11).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

This research was funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Both authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.

Ethical approval

Animal handling and feather sampling were permitted under appropriate permits (DISPOSICIÓN No. 349-SSTyAP/10 and DISPOSICIÓN No. 350-SSTyAP/11). All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro para el Estudio de Sistemas Marinos, CONICETPuerto MadrynArgentina
  2. 2.Wildlife Conservation Society ArgentinaCiudad Autónoma de Buenos AiresArgentina

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