The immediate effects of ditching a saltmarsh on nesting herring gulls Larus argentatus

  • Burger J
  • Shisler J
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We examined the effects of water management for mosquito control on the behaviour and breeding success of a resident colony of herring gulls. The colony resided on three close islands, one of which was ditched in March before the start of the second breeding season. The number of breeding pairs on the ditched island remained the same before and after ditching although the breeding number increased by 46% and 90% on the other two islands. Breeding chronology was similar on all three areas. However, birds nesting on spoil laid eggs a mean of 8 days later than non-spoil nesting birds. Behavioural observations on aggression and display rates indicated that birds on spoil behaved similarly to those in open grassy areas but differed from those nesting in the bushes. Nest site selection, breeding densities, and breeding success were similar on all three islands. Thus the differences noted were attributed to the appearance of the marsh. We postulated that pairs having nested on the experimental island in the previous year continued to do so after the island was ditched. However, pairs searching for new territory did not move onto the island that was ditched, but instead colonised the nearby islands. Similarly, those pairs breeding on spoil nested later because of the need to defend their nest sites which were situated in areas used for displaying by unmated birds. © 1979.

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  • Joanna Burger

  • Joseph K. Shisler

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