Winter home range and habitat selection differs among breeding populations of herring gulls in eastern North America

Authors: Christine M. Anderson, H. Grant Gilchrist, Robert A. Ronconi, Katherine R. Shlepr, Daniel E. Clark, D. V. Chip Weseloh, Gregory J. Robertson and Mark L. Mallory

Year: 2019

Publication: Movement Ecology

Publication Link:

Keywords: Bird, Non-breeding, Home range, Habitat use, Tracking


Background: Recognizing the factors influencing migratory individuals throughout their annual cycle isimportant for understanding the drivers of population dynamics. Previous studies have found that Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) in the Atlantic region have lower survival rates than those in the Great Lakes and the Arctic. One possible explanation for divergent survival rates among these populations is differences in their
non-breeding habitats.
Methods: We tracked Herring Gulls from five populations, breeding in the eastern Arctic, the Great Lakes, Newfoundland, Sable Island, and the Bay of Fundy. We assessed the extent of migratory connectivity between breeding and wintering sites, and tested if there were differences in home range size or habitat selection among these populations during the winter.
Results: The tracked Herring Gulls had strong migratory connectivity between their breeding and wintering areas. We found that Herring Gulls from the Arctic spent most of the winter in marine habitats, while the other populations used a wider variety of habitats. However, the Newfoundland and Sable Island populations selected for urban habitats, and almost all individuals the specialized in urban habitats came from one of the
three Atlantic populations.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that there could potentially be a link between urban habitat use during the winter and reduced adult survival in Atlantic Canada Herring Gulls.

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