Competition for breeding sites and site-dependent population regulation in a highly colonial seabird, the common guillemot Uria aalge

Guillemot (Uria aalge) Science Article 7


The hypothesis of site-dependent population regulation predicts that birds utilize available nesting sites in a pre-emptive (ideal despotic) manner, leading to density dependence in heterogeneous habitats as poorer sites are used at higher population densities. At small population sizes adaptive site choice protects populations against fluctuations (the buffer effect). Common guillemots Uria aalge (Pontoppidan) breed at high density on sea-cliffs. The population breeding on the Isle of May, Scotland increased by 60% between 1981 and 2000. A good nest-site is a prerequisite for successful breeding and there is much competition for the best sites. Throughout this period, site use correlated with two measures of site quality, and photographs taken in 1936 show that this pattern has been extremely stable. The data indicate declining quality of sites that remain available as the population has increased. Site-dependent regulation was evident in that average breeding success declined over the years, but no declining trend was detected in the best (and most preferred) sites.

Hanna Kokko, Michael P. Harris and Sarah Wanless, Journal of Animal Ecology 73 (2), 367-376

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