- High-resolution GPS tracking reveals sex differences in migratory behaviour and stopover habitat use in the Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
- Scientific Reports
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- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Sex-, size- or age-dependent variation in migration strategies in birds is generally expected to reflect differences in competitive abilities. Theoretical and empirical studies thereby focus on differences in wintering areas, by which individuals may benefit from avoiding food competition during winter or ensuring an early return and access to prime nesting sites in spring. Here, we use GPS tracking to assess sex- and size-related variation in the spatial behaviour of adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus) throughout their annual cycle. We did not find sex- or size-dependent differences in wintering area or the timing of spring migration. Instead, sexual differences occurred prior to, and during, autumn migration, when females strongly focussed on agricultural areas. Females exhibited a more protracted autumn migration strategy, hence spent more time on stopover sites and arrived 15 days later at their wintering areas, than males. This shift in habitat use and protracted autumn migration coincided with the timing of moult, which overlaps with chick rearing and migration. Our results suggest that this overlap between energy-demanding activities may lead females to perform a more prolonged autumn migration, which results in spatiotemporal differences in foraging habitat use between the sexes.
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