Herring gulls target profitable Atlantic puffins during kleptoparasitic attack

Wilson, David R. and Busniuk, Kaylee and Storey, Anne e. (2020) Herring gulls target profitable Atlantic puffins during kleptoparasitic attack. Animal Behaviour, 166. pp. 273-279. ISSN 0003-3472

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Kleptoparasitism is a foraging strategy where one individual steals a procured food item from another individual. Individual kleptoparasites can optimize their foraging strategy by targeting more profitable hosts or by modifying their behaviour to expend less energy than they would by foraging independently. Herring gulls, Larus argentatus, kleptoparasitize Atlantic puffins, Fratercula arctica, by intercepting adults as they return to their burrows with fish for their chicks. While this system has been studied extensively, much remains unknown, particularly from the herring gull's perspective. We tested predictors of herring gull host choice and the probability of success during kleptoparasitic attacks by conducting 73 30-minute focal samples of individual herring gulls at a breeding colony in Newfoundland, Canada. We recorded each puffin that approached the focal gull, categorizing them according to prey type carried, whether or not they landed, and whether or not they were attacked. For those puffins that were attacked, we also noted whether the gull succeeded in obtaining prey. Herring gulls did not attack puffins at random, but, rather, preferentially attacked puffins that carried larger prey, had already completed their landing, and landed closer to and/or in front of the gull. Gulls tended to be more successful at stealing a puffin's food when they attacked landed puffins and made physical contact with the puffin, but not when the puffin landed closer to them or when they were oriented towards the puffin. These findings suggest that herring gulls optimize their kleptoparasitic foraging strategy by targeting more profitable hosts.

Item Type: Article
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/16076
Item ID: 16076
Keywords: Atlantic puffin, food stealing, foraging herring gull, host, kleptoparasitism, provisioning, seabird
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Psychology
Science, Faculty of > Psychology
Date: 30 June 2020
Date Type: Publication
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2020.05.012
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