The influence of investigator disturbance on aggressive behaviour and breeding success of ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) /
Brown, Kevin M.
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Increased losses of eggs and chicks resulting from human intrusion (investigator or other) into seabird colonies has been well documented. In 1990/91, I studied the effects of investigator disturbance on aggressive behaviour and breeding success of individual pairs of ring-billed gulls nesting at two colonies near Port Colborne, Ontario. The insular colony was on an artificial breakwall, associated with the Welland Ship Canal, approximately 1 km off the north shore of Lake Erie. The mainland colony was adjacent to the canal approximately 1 km east of the breakwall. The frequencies of adult threat and assault behaviours, chick movement and adult attacks on chicks were recorded by continuous scan sampling 30 min prior to, 30 min during and 60 (2 X 30) min after investigator disturbance. The frequency of threat and assault behaviours increased during the period of investigator activity in the colony while the duration of wingpulls and beakpulls decreased. Significantly more chicks ran ("runners") from their natal territories during disturbances and "runners" were more frequently attacked than "territorial" chicks. No chicks were fatally attacked during disturbance and "runners" returned to their natal territories quickly after disturbance. Breeding success was determined for pairs nesting in study plots subjected to two levels of disturbance (normal and moderate). The disturbance level of each plot differed in visitation frequency and activities performed on each visit. Investigator disturbance had no effect on the hatching success or fledging success (taken as 21 days of age) of ring-billed gull study pairs at either colony.