3 years ago

“Seasonal and annual differences in the foraging ecology of two gull species breeding in sympatry and their use of fishery discards”

F.R. Ceia, V.H. Paiva, F. Moniz, J.A. Ramos, J.P. Granadeiro, D.M. Matos, J.G. Calado
Niche segregation between similar species will result from an avoidance of competition but also from environmental variability, including nowadays anthropogenic activities. Gulls are among the seabirds with greater behavioural plasticity, being highly opportunistic and feeding on a wide range of prey, mostly from anthropogenic origin. Here, we analysed blood and feather stable isotopes combined with pellet analysis to investigate niche partitioning between Audouin's gull Larus audouinii and yellow-legged gull Larus michahellis breeding in sympatry at Deserta Island, southern Portugal, during 2014 and 2015. During the breeding season there was considerable overlap in the adults' diet, as their stable isotope values of blood and primary feather (P1) did not differ, and their pellets were comprised mainly by marine fish species. However, Audouin's gulls presented higher occurrences of pelagic fish, while yellow-legged gulls fed more on demersal fish, insects, and refuse. SIAR mixing models also estimated a higher proportion of demersal fish in the diet of yellow-legged gulls. We also found differences between the two gull species in chicks' feathers, suggesting that Audouin's gull adults selected prey with lower carbon isotope values to feed their young. Secondary feather (S8) of Audouin's gull presented higher isotope values compared to yellow-legged gulls, indicating different foraging areas (δ13C) and/ or trophic levels (δ15N) between the two species in the non-breeding season. During both the all-year and non-breeding periods the yellow-legged gull showed a broader isotopic niche width than Audouin's gull in 2013, and in 2014 the two gull species exhibited different isotopic niche spaces. Our study suggests that both gull species foraged in association with fisheries during the breeding season. In this sense, a discard ban implemented under the new European Union Common Fisheries Policy may lead to a food shortage, therefore future research should closely monitor the population dynamics of Audouin's and yellow-legged gulls. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/jav.01463

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