Individual specialization on fishery discards by lesser black-backed gulls (Larus fuscus)

Chris Tyson*, Judy Shamoun-Baranes, E.E. Van Loon, K.C.J. Camphuysen, N.T. Hintzen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


While seabird-fishery associations are well documented, this research primarily comes from ship-based surveys and consequently individual level responses to discard availability are largely unknown. As part of a long-term study on lesser black-backed gulls (Larus fuscus) in the Netherlands, the fine-scale movements of adults were tracked with GPS tags throughout the breeding period. The aim of this study was to determine if lesser black-backed gulls were utilizing fishery discards in the Wadden Sea and to examine possible consequences of this behaviour. Within the Wadden Sea during weekdays, tracked birds predominately associated with zones where fishing vessels are known to operate (deep gullies). Across all individuals combined (n = 40), there was a significantly reduced use of the Wadden Sea during weekends when the fleets were not operating. Eight females, who markedly increased their use of the Wadden Sea during weekdays throughout the breeding period, were largely responsible for this pattern. The loss of discard resources on weekends primarily resulted in these eight individuals switching to terrestrial foraging areas. Nest attendance and total foraging time were consistent between weekdays and weekends, suggesting that resource shifts on weekends did not impact daily time budgets. As such, it appears that lesser black-backed gulls specializing on discard utilization are able to flexibly respond to the temporary loss of discards by switching to alternative resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1882-1891
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • fishery discards
  • GPS tracking
  • individual specialization
  • Larus fuscus
  • lesser black-backed gull


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