The Communication Behavior of Gulls and Other Seabirds

  • C. G. Beer


Any behavior can be communicative. That is to say, whatever an animal might be doing can tell you something about it. A gull dropping clams on a beach is manifestly trying to get food; a gull preening on a post is just as manifestly not. A tern making a harsh clicking call above you as you walk near its nest signals that it is about to dive at and possibly strike you, and the same tern parading with head held high and bill pointed skyward in front of another conveys the information that it is ready for sexual attachment.


Communication Behavior Alarm Call Animal Communication Individual Recognition Proximate Function 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Amlaner, C. J., and Stout, J. F., 1978, Aggressive communication by Larus glaucescens. Part VI: Interactions of territory residents with a remotely controlled [sic], locomotory model, Behaviour 66: 223–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beer, C. G., 1966, Adaptations to nesting habitat in the reproductive behaviour of the Black-billed Gull Larus bulleri, Ibis 108: 394–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beer, C. G., 1969, Laughing Gull chicks: Recognition of their parents’ voices, Science 166: 1030–1032.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beer, C. G., 1970a, On the responses of Laughing Gull chicks to the calls of adults. I: Recognition of the voices of the parents, Anim. Behay. 18: 652–660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beer, C. G., 1970b, On the responses of Laughing Gull chicks to the calls of adults. II: Age differences and responses to different types of call, Anim. Behay. 18: 661–677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beer, C. G., 1970c, Individual recognition of voice in the social behavior of birds, Adv. Study Behay. 3: 27–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beer, C. G., 1972, Individual recognition of voice and its development in birds, Proc. 15th Int. Ornithol. Congr. 1970: 339–356.Google Scholar
  8. Beer, C. G., 1973a, A view of birds, Minn. Symp. Child Psychol. 7: 47–86.Google Scholar
  9. Beer, C. G. 1973b, Species-typical behavior and ethology, in: Comparative Psychology-a Modern Survey ( D. A. Dewsbury and D. A. Rethlingshafer, eds.), pp. 47–86, McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  10. Beer, C. G., 1975, Multiple functions and gull displays, in: Function and Evolution in Behaviour—Essays in Honour of Professor Niko Tinbergen ( G. P. Baerends, C. G. Beer, and A. Manning, eds.), pp. 16–54, Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  11. Beer, C. G. 1976, Some complexities in the communication behavior of gulls, Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 280: 413–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Beer, C. G., 1977, What is a display? Am. Zool. 17: 155–165.Google Scholar
  13. Beer, C. G., 1979, Vocal communication between Laughing Gull parents and chicks, Behaviour 70: 118–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Blest, A. D., 1961, The concept of ritualization, in: Current Problems in Animal Behaviour ( W. H. Thorpe and O. L. Zangwill, eds.), pp. 102–124, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  15. Booy, H. L., and Tinbergen, N., 1937, Nieuwe Feiten over de Sociologie van de Zilvermeeuwen, De Levende Natuur 41: 325–334.Google Scholar
  16. Brooke, M. de L., 1978, Sexual differences in the voice and individual vocal recognition in the Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), Anim. Behay. 26: 622–629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Burger, J. 1974, Breeding adaptations of Franklin’s Gull (Larus pipixcan) to a marsh habitat, Anim. Behay. 22: 521–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Burger, J., and Beer, C. G., 1975, Territoriality in the Laughing Gull (L. atricilla), Behaviour 55: 301–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Chomsky, N., 1968, Syntactic Structures, Mouton, The Hague.Google Scholar
  20. Cullen, E., 1957, Adaptation in the Kittiwake to cliff-nesting, Ibis 99: 275–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Deusing, M., 1939, The herring gulls of Hat Island, Wisconsin, Wilson Bull. 51: 170–175.Google Scholar
  22. Evans, R. M., 1970a, Parental recognition and the “Mew Call” in Black-billed Gulls (Larus bulleri), Auk 87: 503–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Evans, R. M., 1970b, Imprinting and the control of mobility in young Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis), Anim. Behay. Monogr. 3: 193–248.Google Scholar
  24. Galusha, J. G., and Stout, J. F., 1977, Aggressive communication by Larus glaucescens, Part IV. Experiments on visual communication, Behaviour 62: 222–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Goethe, F., 1937, Beobachtungen und Untersuchungen zur Biologie der Silbermöwe (L.a. argentatus) auf der Vogelinsel Memmerstand, J. f. Ornithol. 85: 1–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Griffin, D. R., 1976, The Question of Animal Awareness, Rockefeller University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  27. Haldane, J. B. S., 1954, La signalisation animale, Ann. Biol. 30: 89–98.Google Scholar
  28. Hailman, J. P., 1967, The ontogeny of an instinct, Behay. Suppl. 15.Google Scholar
  29. Hailman, J. P., 1978, Review of “The Behavior of Communicating: An Ethological Approach,” by W. J. Smith, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., Auk 95: 771–774.Google Scholar
  30. Haviland, M. D., 1914, The courtship of the Common Gull, Larus c. canus, Br. Birds 7: 278–280.Google Scholar
  31. Heinroth, O., 1911, Beitrage zur Biologie, namentlich Ethologie und Psychologie der Anatiden, Verh. V. Int. Ornithol. Kongr., Berlin, pp. 333–342.Google Scholar
  32. Herrick, F. H., 1912, Organization of the gull community, Proc. 7th Int. Zool. Congr., Boston 1907: 156–158.Google Scholar
  33. Herrmann, J., 1977, The nest relief of Laughing Gulls: A study of mate relations during the incubation period, Ph.D. dissertation, Rutgers University.Google Scholar
  34. Ingold, P., 1973, Zur lautlichen Beziehung des Elters zu seinem Kueken bei Tordalken (Alca torda), Behaviour 45: 154–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kirkman, F. B., 1937, Bird Behaviour, Nelson, London.Google Scholar
  36. Kirkman, F. B., 1940, The inner territory of the Black-headed Gull, Br. Birds 34: 100–104.Google Scholar
  37. Kuhn, T. S., 1970 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2nd ed., University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  38. Lack, D., 1968, Ecological Adaptations for Breeding in Birds, Methuen, London.Google Scholar
  39. Lorenz, K., 1941, Vergleichende Bewegungsstudien an Anatinen, J. f Ornithol. 89: 194–294.Google Scholar
  40. Manley, G. H., 1960, The agonistic behaviour of the Black-headed Gull, Ph.D. thesis, Bodleian Library, Oxford.Google Scholar
  41. Marier, P., 1969, Tonal quality of birds sounds, in: Bird Vocalizations ( R. A. Hinde, ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  42. Miller, D. E., and Emlen, J. T., 1975, Individual chick recognition and family integrity in the Ring-billed Gull, Behavior 52: 124–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Morgan, C. L., 1894, An Introduction to Comparative Psychology, Murray, London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Morris, C. W., 1938, Foundations of the Theory of Signs, Encyclopedia of Unified Science, Vol. 1, No. 2, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  45. Morris, D., 1956, The feather postures of birds and the problem of the origin of social signals, Behaviour 9: 75–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Morris, D., 1957, “Typical intensity” and its relation to the problem of ritualisation, Behaviour 11:1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Moynihan, M., 1955, Some aspects of reproductive behaviour in the Black-headed Gull (Lanus r. ridibundus) and related species, Behay. Suppl. 4: 1–201.Google Scholar
  48. Moynihan, M., 1956, Notes on the behavior of some North American gulls. I. Aerial hostile behavior, Behaviour 10: 126–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Moynihan, M., 1958a, Notes on the behavior of some North American gulls. II. Non-aerial hostile behavior of adults, Behaviour 12: 95–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Moynihan, M., 1958b, Notes on the behavior of some North American gulls. III. Pairing behavior, Behaviour 13: 112–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Moynihan, M., 1959a, Notes on the behavior of some North American gulls. IV. The ontogeny of hostile behavior and display patterns, Behaviour 14: 214–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Moynihan, M., 1959b, A revision of the family Laridae (Ayes), Am. Mus. Novit. 1928: 1–42.Google Scholar
  53. Moynihan, M., 1962, Hostile and sexual behavior patterns of South American and Pacific Laridae, Behay. Suppl. 8: 1–365.Google Scholar
  54. Nelson, J. B., 1970, The relationship between behaviour and ecology in the Sulidae with reference to other sea birds, Oceanogr. Mar. Biol. 8: 501–574.Google Scholar
  55. Nelson, J. B., 1972, Evolution of the pair bond in Sulidae, Proc. 15th Int. Ornithol. Congr., The Hague 1970: 371–388.Google Scholar
  56. Nelson, J. B., 1975, Functional aspects of behaviour in the Sulidae, in: Function and Evolution in Behaviour —Essays in Honour of Professor Niko Tinbergen ( G. P. Baerends, C. G. Beer, and A. Manning, eds.), Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  57. Noble, G. K., and Wurm, M., 1943, The social behavior of the Laughing Gull, Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 45: 179–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Portielje, A. F. J., 1928, Zur Ethologie bezw. Psychologie der Silbermöwe (Larus argentatus argentatus Pont.), Ardea 17: 112–249.Google Scholar
  59. Ryle, G., 1949, The Concept of Mind, Hutchinson, London.Google Scholar
  60. Sebeok, T. A., 1967, Animal communication, Intern. Soc. Sci. J. 19: 88–95.Google Scholar
  61. Sebeok, T. A. (ed.), 1968, Animal Communication, Indiana University Press, Bloomington.Google Scholar
  62. Sebeok, T. A. (ed.), 1977, How Animals Communicate, Indiana University Press, Bloomington.Google Scholar
  63. Slater, P. J. B., 1973, Describing sequences of behavior, in: Perspectives in Ethology ( P. P. G. Bateson and P. H. Klopfer, eds.), Vol. 1, pp. 131–153, Plenum Press, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Smith, J. W., 1963, Vocal communication of information in birds, Am. Nat. 97: 117–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Smith, W. J., 1965, Message, meaning and context in ethology, Am. Nat. 99: 404–409.Google Scholar
  66. Smith, W. J., 1968, Message-meaning analysis, in: Animal Communication ( T. A. Sebeok, ed.), pp. 44–60, Indiana University Press, Bloomington.Google Scholar
  67. Smith, W. J., 1977, The Behavior of Communicating: An Ethological Approach, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
  68. Steinbacher, G., 1938, Zur Ethologie unserer einheimischen Möwenarten, Berich. Schles. Ornith. 23: 42–65.Google Scholar
  69. Stevenson, J. G., Hutchinson, R. E., Hutchinson, J. B., Bertram, B. C. R., and Thorpe, W. H., 1970, Individual recognition by auditory cues in the Common Tern (Sterna hirundo), Nature (London) 226: 562–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Strong, R. M., 1914, On the habits and behavior of the Herring Gull Larus argentatus Pont., Auk 31: 22–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Struhsaker, T. T., 1967, Auditory communication among Vervet Monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops), in: Social Communication among Primates ( S. A. Altmann, ed.), University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  72. Tinbergen, N., I936a, Waarnemingen en Proeven over de Sociologie van een Zilvermeeuwenkolonie, De Levende Natuur 40: 1–24; 262–280.Google Scholar
  73. Tinbergen, N., 1936b, Zur Soziologie der Silbermöwe, Larus a. argentatus Pont., Beitr. Fortpflanzung Biol. Vogel 12: 89–96.Google Scholar
  74. Tinbergen, N., 1952, “Derived” activities: Their causation, biological significance, origin, and emancipation during evolution, Q. Rev. Biol. 27:1–32.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Tinbergen, N., 1953, The Herring Gull’s World, Collins, London.Google Scholar
  76. Tinbergen, N., 1959, Comparative studies of the behaviour of gulls (Laridae): A progress report, Behaviour 15: 1–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Tinbergen, N., 1963, On aims and methods of ethology, Z. Tierpsychol. 20: 410–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Tinbergen, N., and Moynihan, M., 1952, Head flagging in the Black-headed Gull: Its function and origin, Br. Birds 45: 19–22.Google Scholar
  79. Tschanz, B., 1968, Trottellummen, Z. Tierpsychol. Beiheft 4: 1–103.Google Scholar
  80. Wachs, H., 1933, Paarungsspiele als Artcharaktere, Beobachtungen an Möwen und Seeschwalben, Zool. Anz. Suppl. 6: 192–202.Google Scholar
  81. White, S. J., and White, R. E. C., 1970, Individual voice production in gannets, Behaviour 37: 40–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Whitman, C. O., 1899, Animal behavior, in: Biological Lectures Delivered at the Marine Biological Lab. at Woods Hole in 1898, pp. 329–331, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  83. Wilson, E. O., 1975, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, Belknap Press ( Harvard University ), Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. G. Beer
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Animal BehaviorRutgers UniversityNewarkUSA

Personalised recommendations