High foraging site fidelity and spatial segregation among individual great black-backed gullsBorrmann, Rahel; Phillips, Richard A.; Clay, Thomas; Garthe, Stefan
21 October 2019
Individual foraging site fidelity, whereby individuals repeatedly visit the same foraging areas, is widespread in nature, and likely benefits individuals through higher foraging efficiency and potentially, higher breeding success. It may arise as a consequence of habitat or resource specialisation, or alternatively, where resources are abundant or predictable, the partitioning of space might guarantee individuals exclusive foraging opportunities. We tracked seven adult great black-backed gulls Larus marinus at a North Sea colony from early incubation to the end of the breeding season in 2016, providing a total of 1,170 foraging trips over a mean ± SD tracking period of 67 ± 16 days. There was clear spatial segregation between individuals, with almost no overlap of their core areas (50% utilisation distribution) during incubation and chick-rearing. Core areas were relatively small and there was high repeatability (R ± SE) in foraging parameters, including initial departure direction (0.73 ± 0.11), foraging range (0.41 ± 0.14) and cumulative distance travelled (0.19 ± 0.1) throughout the breeding season. Despite the low spatial overlap, there was little evidence of differential habitat use by individuals. The near-exclusive individual foraging areas of this species, usually considered to be a generalist, indicate that where there is high resource availability throughout the breeding season and a small local population, individuals appear to adopt a territorial strategy which likely reduces intraspecific competition.