Living with gulls: the consequences for sandwich terns of breeding in association with black-headed gulls

E.W.M. Stienen, A. Brenninkmeijer, C.E. Geschiere

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    Abstract

    We studied the feeding ecology of Sandwich Terns (Sterna sandvicensis) in the presence of kleptoparasitising Blackheaded Gulls (Larus, ridbundus) on the isle of Griend, The Netherlands, between 1992 and 1998. About 30 of all of the food the patents transported to the colony was lost, mainly through intervention by Blackheaded Gulls. Tile gulls mainly took the larger fish, but showed no preference for the energetically more profitable herring. Apparently, the gulls selected for prey length visibilityof the prey, rather than for energy content of the fish. The proportion of food robbed by the gulls increased with the age of the tern chicks and was in parallel to the increase in pre!; length Sandwich Tern parents brought to the colon). Kleptoparasitism showed a clear pattern with time of the day, tide and wind speed. During the first few hours of the day almost no kleptoparasitism occurred, while robbery was high around 09.00h and at dusk. This bimodal pattern in kleptoparasitism might be related to the foraging activities of the gulls. A tidal effect on food loss was less pronounced. although kleptoparasitism was significantly higher during high tide, when foraging activity of gulls for other foods was low and the number of potential pirates in thetern colony was high. Wind strength had a significant negative effect on the amount of. food transported to tile colony, while kleptoparasitism increased. Therefore, wind speed severely affected energy intake of th; tem chicks and had strong negative effects on chick growth. During the first two weeks post-hatching, kleptoparasitism was relatively low and had only small effects on chick growth, even under. unfavourable weather conditions. From then on, the negative effects of kleptoparasitism on growth because considerable. Check growth was severely affected by strong winds. Sandwich Terns show several behavioral strategies in order to reduce the rate of food loss by the gulls and to minimize the effects on chick growth and survival.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)68-82
    JournalWaterbirds
    Volume24
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2001

    Keywords

    • fauna

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    Stienen, E. W. M., Brenninkmeijer, A., & Geschiere, C. E. (2001). Living with gulls: the consequences for sandwich terns of breeding in association with black-headed gulls. Waterbirds, 24(1), 68-82.