Diet Changes in Breeding Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) in Witless Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, over 40 Years

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Abstract

The diets of gulls (Laridae) can have consequences for reproductive success, chick growth, and survival, yet there have been no quantitative assessments in eastern Newfoundland since the early 1970s. The diet of Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) was examined through regurgitated prey items and pellets on Gull Island, Witless Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, in 2012, and compared with similar data from 1970–1971. There was a significant shift in Herring Gull diet composition from blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) and capelin (Mallotus villosus) in the 1970s to garbage and Common Murre (Uria aalge) eggs in 2012. Delays in capelin spawning and the large increase in breeding Common Murres on Gull Island are likely factors influencing Herring Gull diet. Garbage, which includes human food scraps as well as plastic debris, now constitutes the single largest diet item for Herring Gulls, corresponding with a global increase in plastic pollution. The consistently low contribution of fisheries discards suggests that changes in fishing practices and availability of discards are only one possible factor in the Herring Gull decline in Witless Bay.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-158
JournalWaterbirds
Volume39
Issue numbersp1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016

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