Hatching date influences age at first reproductionin the black-headed gull

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) Science Article 1


In long-lived colonial birds, age at recruitment is an important life-history character. Variation in this parameter may reflect differences in several factors, including competitive ability and breeding strategies. Further, these differences may be due to timing of hatching (for instance through differences in competitive ability). We investigated the age of first-time breeders in relation to hatching date in a black-headed gull Larus ridibundus colony situated in central France, from 1979 to 1993. Age at first breeding was estimated for four groups of individuals (total n=550) according to their hatching date, using a recent capture-recapture methodology which allowed us to estimate recruitment rate without the limiting assumptions of methods relying on simple return rates. The age at first breeding was negatively correlated with the hatching date of individuals: individuals hatched earlier in the season started breeding at a younger age than individuals born later. Proportionally more 2 year-old late-hatched individuals were seen breeding on small peripheral colonies than young early-hatched individuals. This difference disappeared after age 3 years. These results strongly suggest that individuals hatched late in the season start to breed on peripheral colonies before recruiting to their natal colony. A difference of few weeks in hatching date has consequences which can last for several years.

Anne-Caroline Prevot-Julliard and Roger Pradel, Oecologia (2001) 127:62-68

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