- Migration strategy of a flight generalist, the Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
- Behavioral Ecology
- Volume | Issue number
- 23 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Migrating birds are believed to minimize the time spent on migration rather than energy. Birds seem to maximize migration speed in different ways as a noteworthy variation in migration strategies exists. We studied migration strategies of a flight mode and feeding generalist, the Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus, using GPS-based satellite telemetry. We expected the gulls to achieve very high overall migration speeds by traveling via the shortest direct route, traveling during a large part of the day and night, and making few and short stopovers. Fourteen individuals were tracked between the Dutch breeding colony and the wintering sites in England, southern Europe and northwest Africa. The gulls did not travel via the shortest possible route but made substantial detours by their tendency to follow coasts. Although the gulls traveled during most of the day, and sometimes during the night, they did not achieve long daily distances (177 and 176 km/day in autumn and spring, respectively), which is explained by the gulls stopping frequently on travel days to forage. Furthermore, due to frequent and long migratory stopovers, their overall migration speed was among the lowest recorded for migratory birds (44 and 98 km/day, in autumn and spring, respectively). A possible explanation for the unexpected frequent stopovers and low migration speeds is that gulls do not minimize the duration of migration but rather minimize the costs of migration. Energy rather than time might be important for short-distance migrating birds, resulting in very different migration strategies compared with long-distance migrants.
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