Advertisement

Hydrobiologia

, Volume 279, Issue 1, pp 39–55 | Cite as

The diet of Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) during winter and early spring on the lower Great Lakes

  • P. J. Ewins
  • D. V. Weseloh
  • J. H. Groom
  • R. Z. Dobos
  • P. Mineau
Article

Abstract

In the Great Lakes, the Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) is a prominent member of the aquatic bird community, and has been used to monitor spatial and temporal trends in contaminant levels. To understand more fully contaminant loading outside the breeding season, we analysed the contents of 1298 freshly regurgitated pellets and 179 fresh faeces, collected in March and early April 1978–83, and between late December and late February 1990–91, from the vicinity of breeding colonies in Lakes Ontario and Erie, the Niagara River, Detroit River, and south-eastern parts of Lake Huron. Most adult Herring Gulls from the Great Lakes population winter in these areas, but there is no published account of their food habits other than during the breeding season. Most pellets from colonies close to large urban centres contained remains of garbage, as well as various fish species. Small mammals, notably Deer Mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) dominated the early spring diet at Lake Huron colonies near agricultural areas. At all other sites fish predominated in pellets and faeces, but garbage items were also recorded regularly. The species of fish consumed varied regionally, probably reflecting local availability. In Lake Ontario, Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax) and Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) occurred most frequently in samples, whereas Freshwater Drum (Aplodinotus grunniens) was the main fish prey in Lake Erie and the Detroit River. Dietary differences were apparent between years, within seasons, and amongst areas. While these may have reflected some real differences in food availability, interpretation of these results was confounded by various biases inherent in the sampling of pellets and faeces to determine diet in such an opportunistic species. Therefore, it would be unwise to draw rigid conclusions as to regional or seasonal differences in the diets of piscivorous birds, based upon analyses of diet from only a small sample of sites or years. Herring Gulls appear to feed mainly on fish and garbage in winter and early spring on the lower Great Lakes (much as during the breeding season), but any locally abundant food source is probably exploited opportunistically.

Key words

Great Lakes Herring Gull diet winter spring 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Adorjan, A. S. & G. B. Kolenosky, 1969. A manual for the identification of hairs of selected Ontario mammals. Ontario Dept. Lands & Forests Res. Rep. (Wildlife) No. 90. 64 pp.Google Scholar
  2. Allan, L. J., 1977. The comparative feeding ecology relative to population dynamics of the herring and ring-billed gulls (Larus argentatus and Larus delawarensis) and some comparisons with the caspian tern (Sterna caspia). M.Sc. thesis, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, D. W. & J. J. Hickey, 1976. Dynamics of storage of organochlorine pollutants in Herring Gulls. Envir. Pollut. 10: 183–200.Google Scholar
  4. Annett, C. & R. Pierotti, 1989. Chick hatching as a trigger for dietary switching in the Western Gull. Colonial Waterbirds 12: 4–11.Google Scholar
  5. Assel, R. A., F. H. Quinn, G. A. Leshkevich & S. J. Bolsenga, 1983. Great Lakes Ice Atlas. Great Lakes Envir. Res. Lab., Ann Arbor. Michigan 48104, USA.Google Scholar
  6. Banfield, A. W. F., 1981. The Mammals of Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences of Canada. Univ. Toronto Press, Toronto, 438 pp.Google Scholar
  7. Baumann, P. C. & Whittle, D. M., 1988. The status of selected organics in the Laurentian Great Lakes: an overview of DDT, PCBs, dioxins, furans, and aromatic hydrocarbons. Aquat. Toxicol. 11: 241–257.Google Scholar
  8. Bergstedt, R. A. & R. O'Gorman, 1989. Distribution of Alewives in southeastern Lake Ontario in autumn and winter: a clue to winter mortalities. Trans. am. Fish. Soc. 118: 687–692.Google Scholar
  9. Braune, B. M. & R. J. Norstrom, 1989. Dynamics of organochlorine compounds in Herring Gulls: III. Tissue distribution and bioaccumulation in Lake Ontario gulls. Envir. Toxicol. Chem. 8: 957–968.Google Scholar
  10. Casselman, J. M., W. J. Christie & K. A. Scott, 1991. Research project: fish community dynamics of the outer basin of Lake Ontario. Lake Ontario Fisheries Unit 1990 Annual Report: 21.1–21.5. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources: Picton, Ontario.Google Scholar
  11. Christie, W. J., K. A. Scott, P. G. Sly & R. H. Strus, 1987. Recent changes in the aquatic food web of eastern Lake Ontario. Can. J. Fish. aquat. Sci. 44 (Suppl. 2): 37–52.Google Scholar
  12. Colby, P. J., 1973. Response of the alewives, Alosa pseudoharengus, to environmental change. In: W. Chavin (ed.), Responses of Fish to Environmental Changes. Thomas Press: Springfield, Illinois: 163–198.Google Scholar
  13. Coulson, J. C. & J. Butterfield, 1986. Studies on a colony of colour-ringed Herring Gulls Larus argentatus: II. Colony occupation and feeding outside the breeding season. Bird Study 33: 55–59.Google Scholar
  14. Cramp, S. & K. E. L. Simmons, 1983. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Vol. 3. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 913 pp.Google Scholar
  15. Croker, D. W. & D. W. Barr, 1968. Handbook of the crayfishes of Ontario. Miscellaneous Publication of the Life Sciences Department, Royal Ontario Museum. Toronto Univ. Press, Toronto, 158 pp.Google Scholar
  16. Drent, R. H. & S. Daan, 1980. The prudent parent: energetic adjustments in avian breeding. Ardea 53: 99–160.Google Scholar
  17. Duffy, D. C. & L. J. B. Laurenson, 1983. Pellets of Cape Cormorants as indicators of diet. Condor 85: 305–307.Google Scholar
  18. Dunn, E. H., 1975. Caloric intake of nestling Double-crested Cormorants. Auk 92: 553–565.Google Scholar
  19. Edsall, T. A., 1967. Biology of the Freshwater Drum in Western Lake Erie. Ohio J. Sci. 67: 321–340.Google Scholar
  20. Foltz, J. W. & C. R. Norden, 1977. Seasonal changes in food consumption and energy content of smelt (Osmerus mordax) in Lake Michigan. Trans. am. Fish. Soc. 106: 230–234.Google Scholar
  21. Fox, G. A., L. J. Allan, D. V. Weseloh & P. Mineau, 1990. The diet of herring gulls during the nesting period in Canadian waters of the Great Lakes. Can. J. Zool. 68: 1075–1085.Google Scholar
  22. Government of Canada, 1991. Toxic Chemicals in the Great Lakes and Associated Effects. Environment Canada, Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans, and Health & Welfare Canada, Ottawa, 51 pp.Google Scholar
  23. Great Lakes Water Quality Board, 1981. 1981 report on Great Lakes water quality. Report to the International Joint Commission, Windsor, Ontario.Google Scholar
  24. Great Lakes Water Quality Board, 1989. 1987 report on Great Lakes water quality. Report to the International Joint Commission, Windsor, Ontario.Google Scholar
  25. Harris, M. P., 1970. Rates and causes of increases of some British gull populations. Bird Study 17: 325–335.Google Scholar
  26. Hartley, P. H. T., 1948. The assessment of the food of birds. Ibis 90: 361–381.Google Scholar
  27. Hartman, A. L., 1988. Historical changes in the major fish resources of the Great Lakes. In: M. S. Evans (ed.), Toxic Contaminants and Ecosystem Health: A Great Lakes Focus. J. Wiley & Sons, New York: 103–131.Google Scholar
  28. Herdendorf, C. E., 1982. Large lakes of the world. J. Great Lakes Res. 8: 379–412.Google Scholar
  29. Horton, N., T. Brough & J. B. A. Rochard, 1983. The importance of refuse tips to gulls wintering in an inland area of south-east England. J. appl. Ecol. 20: 751–765.Google Scholar
  30. Irons, D. B., 1987. Diets of Glaucous-winged Gulls: A comparison of methods for collecting and analyzing data. Studies in Avian Biology 10: 103.Google Scholar
  31. Johnstone, I. G., M. P. Harris, S. Wanless & J. A. Graves, 1990. The usefulness of pellets for assessing the diet of adult Shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis. Bird Study 37: 5–11.Google Scholar
  32. Lagler, R. F., 1947. Lepidological studies 1. Scale characteristics of the families of Great Lakes fish. Trans. am. mic. Soc. 66: 149–171.Google Scholar
  33. Lloyd, C. S., M. L. Tasker & K. Partridge, 1991. The Status of Seabirds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. D. Poyser, London, 355 pp.Google Scholar
  34. Ludwig, J. P., 1966. Herring and ring-billed gull populations of the Great Lakes, 1960–1965. Publ. No. 15, Great Lakes Research Division, Univ. Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, 80–89 pp.Google Scholar
  35. Miller, R. R., 1956. Origin and dispersal of the Alewife, Alosa pseudoharengus, and the Gizzard Shad, Dorosoma cepedianum, in the Great Lakes. Trans. am. fish Soc. 86: 97–111.Google Scholar
  36. Mineau, P., G. A. Fox, R. J. Norstrom, D. V. Weseloh, D. J. Hallett & J. A. Ellenton, 1984. Using the Herring Gull to monitor levels and effects of organochlorine contamination in the Canadian Great Lakes. In J. O. Nriagu & M. S. Simmons (eds), Toxic Contaminants in the Great Lakes. J. Wiley & Sons, New York: 425–452.Google Scholar
  37. Montgomery, F. H., 1977. Seeds and Fruits of Plants of Eastern Canada and Northern United States. Toronto Univ. Press, Toronto, 187 pp.Google Scholar
  38. Moore, F. R., 1976. The dynamics of seasonal distribution of Great Lakes Herring Gulls. Bird-Banding 47: 141–159.Google Scholar
  39. Morris, R. D. & G. T. Haymes, 1977. The breeding biology of two Lake Erie herring gull colonies. Can. J. Zool. 55: 796–805.Google Scholar
  40. Niebuhr, V., 1983. Feeding strategies and incubation behavior of wild herring gulls: An experiment using operand feeding boxes. Anim. behav. 31: 708–717.Google Scholar
  41. Norstrom, R. J., T. P. Clark, D. A. Jeffrey, H. T. Won & A. P. Gilman, 1986. Dynamics of organochlorine compounds in herring gulls (Larus argentatus): I. Distribution and clearance of [14C] DDE in free-living gulls. Envir. Toxicol. Chem. 5: 41–48.Google Scholar
  42. O'Gorman, R. & C. P. Schneider, 1986. Dynamics of Alewives in Lake Ontario following a mass mortality. Trans. am. Fish. Soc. 115: 1–14.Google Scholar
  43. Oliver, B. G. & A. J. Niimi, 1988. Trophodynamic analysis of PCB congeners and other chlorinated hydrocarbons in the Lake Ontario ecosystem. Envir. Sci. Technol. 22: 388–397.Google Scholar
  44. Pierotti, R. & C. A. Annett, 1987. Reproductive consequences of dietary specialization and switching in an ecological generalist. In A. C. Kamil, J. R. Krebs & H. R. Pulliam (eds), Foraging Behavior. Plenum Publishing, New York, USA: 417–442.Google Scholar
  45. Pierotti, R. & C. A. Annett, 1990. Diet and reproductive output in seabirds. BioScience 40: 568–574.Google Scholar
  46. Pierotti, R. & C. A. Annett, 1991. Diet choice in the Herring Gull: constraints imposed by reproductive and ecological factors. Ecology 72: 319–328.Google Scholar
  47. Rodgers, G. K., 1987. Time of onset of full thermal stratification in Lake Ontario in relation to lake temperatures in winter. Can. J. Fish. aquat. Sci. 44: 2225–2229.Google Scholar
  48. Rottiers, D. V. & R. M. Tucker, 1982. Proximate composition and caloric content of eight Lake Michigan fishes. Tech. Paper No. 108, US Dept. of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington D.C., 8 pp.Google Scholar
  49. Schoener, T. W., 1971. The theory of foraging strategies. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 2: 369–404.Google Scholar
  50. Scott, W. B. & E. J. Crossman, 1973. Freshwater Fishes of Canada. Bulletin No. 184, Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Ottawa, 966 pp.Google Scholar
  51. Sokal, R. R. & F. J. Rohlf, 1981. Biometry. W. H. Freeman & Co., New York, 859 pp.Google Scholar
  52. Vollenweider, R. & J. Kerekes, 1982. OECD Eutrophication of Waters, Monitoring, Assessment and Control. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Paris, 154 pp.Google Scholar
  53. Weseloh, D. V., 1984. The origins of banded Herring Gulls recovered in the Great Lakes region. J. field Ornithol. 55: 190–195.Google Scholar
  54. Weseloh, D. V., P. Mineau, S. M. Teeple, H. Blokpoel & B. Ratcliff, 1986. Colonial waterbirds nesting in Canadian Lake Huron in 1980. Canadian Wildlife Service Progress Note No. 165, Ottawa, 28 pp.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. J. Ewins
    • 1
  • D. V. Weseloh
    • 1
  • J. H. Groom
    • 2
  • R. Z. Dobos
    • 2
  • P. Mineau
    • 1
  1. 1.Canadian Wildlife ServiceBurlingtonCanada
  2. 2.Inland Waters DirectorateBurlingtonCanada

Personalised recommendations