Population Ecology

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 343–351 | Cite as

Inferring geographic origin, population structure and migration routes of a wintering population of Mediterranean gulls from resightings data

  • Carles CarbonerasEmail author
  • Giacomo Tavecchia
  • Meritxell Genovart
  • Susana Requena
  • Marc Olivé
  • Daniel Oro
Original article


Winter congregations of migratory birds are made by individuals of different origins and generally assumed to be variable across space and time, but the demographic characteristics of these temporal populations are poorly known. We used 2,216 observations of 472 colour-ringed individuals to estimate the annual local survival of Mediterranean gulls Larus melanocephalus wintering in NE Spain. In addition, by gathering the ringing information on the 19,856 individuals marked as fledglings in 18 countries between 1990 and 2009, we were able to infer the composition of population in relation to the country of origin. We coupled these estimates with geographic information to contrast hypotheses on the migratory pattern most likely used by the gulls in their first migration from their natal colonies to the wintering area. The probability of reaching the study area was negatively associated with the distance from the natal colony. Data were consistent with a migratory strategy that combines fluvial and coastal routes in an optimal way, seeking minimal distance along favourable terrain. We found that, after the first year, annual local survival at the wintering site (0.81 on average) was comparable with the one estimated at the breeding colonies, indicating a high individual fidelity to the areas used in winter. Our work shows that winter groupings may behave as real populations, shaped by breeding output and survival, and that the geographic origin of wintering birds can be explained by a simple model. The study of winter congregations can help understand a species’ population structure and movement strategies.


Capture–recapture Larus melanocephalus Movement strategy Site-fidelity Spatial variation Survival 



We wish to thank the large number of people whose work made the present study possible, in particular the ringers and coordinators of the national ringing programmes: the late Tatyana Ardamatskaya, Nicola Baccetti, Martin Boschert, Albert Cama, Josef Chytil, Monika Czyzak, Camille Duponcheel, Joan Ferrer, Pete Findley, Renaud Flamant, Vassilis Goutner, Lars Hansen, Sühendan Karauz, Zsolt Karcza, Peter Meininger, Antonina Rudenko, Vladimir Slobodnik, Jan Svetlik, Adriano Talamelli, Monika Zielinska, Andreas Zours and Antun Zuljevic. We are also indebted to the other collaborators who kindly provided additional readings of Mediterranean gulls. The following observers contributed >10 readings in the study area during the winter season: Raül Aymí, Albert Cama, Manuel Enrique Carballal, Joan Ferrer, José Luis Greño, Ferran López and Miguel Tirado. The study has received funds from the Spanish Ministry of Science (Grant Ref. CGL2009–08298), the Regional Government of the Balearic Islands and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Supplementary material

10144_2013_362_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (63 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 62 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer Japan 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carles Carboneras
    • 1
    Email author
  • Giacomo Tavecchia
    • 2
  • Meritxell Genovart
    • 2
  • Susana Requena
    • 3
  • Marc Olivé
    • 4
  • Daniel Oro
    • 2
  1. 1.Departament de Biologia AnimalUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB)Esporles (Mallorca)Spain
  3. 3.Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC)BarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.Vilanova i la GeltrúSpain

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