Effects of vegetation on nest microclimate and breeding performanceof lesser black-backed gulls ( Larus fuscus)

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) Science Article 1


For birds that breed in large colonies, the overall area occupied by the colony generally comprises several sub-areas that di.er in physical and social features such as vegetation and breeding density. Birds arriving at a breeding colony select their nesting sites through a hierarchical process of selecting a sub-area, then a particular nest site with appropriate biotic and physical attributes. Optimal vegetation cover is one such important attribute. Many ground nesting gulls preferentially select nest sites that provide shelter during reproduction, but this presumably has to be balanced against any costs such as reduced visibility of potential predators. The e.ects of vegetation height in the subareas within a colony, and of the amount of vegetation in the immediate vicinity of the nest on nest microclimate were investigated in lesser black-backed gulls Larus fuscus in a colony in which overall vegetation height di.ered in di.erent sub-areas and was patchily distributed within these areas. Tall vegetation did have a sheltering e.ect, and this was positively related with chick growth. However, this vegetation area was associated with lower breeding densities, relatively late laying birds and lower chick survival rate, suggesting that sub-areas with tall vegetation held more lower-quality or young breeders. Within the sub-areas, the birds preferentially selected nest sites with more surrounding vegetation, and this was positively correlated with their hatching success.

Sin-Yeon Kim, Pat Monaghan, J Ornithol (2005) 146: 176-183

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