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No evidence of habitat effect on clutch size, egg quality, and hatching success of the Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis at a micro-spatial scale


Authors

SERGIO DELGADO1*, NERE ZORROZUA2 & JUAN ARIZAGA1

1Department of Ornithology, Aranzadi Sciences Society, Zorroagagaina 11, 20014 Donostia, Spain *(sdelgado@aranzadi.eus)


Received 17 March 2021, accepted 19 May 2021

Date Published: 2021/10/15
Date Online: 2021/09/30


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Citation

DELGADO, S., ZORROZUA, N. & ARIZAGA, J. 2021. No evidence of habitat effect on clutch size, egg quality, and hatching success of the Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis at a micro-spatial scale. Marine Ornithology 49: 241-246.


Key words: breeding season, habitat selection, nest, seabird, vegetation, Yellow-legged Gull


Abstract

In colonial seabirds, the nest substrate that is available and, in particular, the vegetation cover around the nest, are important environmental factors that drive an individual's nesting selection process and, ultimately, reproductive performance. Using data collected during three consecutive years in a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis colony from the Bay of Biscay, Spain, we tested whether clutch size, egg volume, and hatching success covaried with the proportion of vegetation cover around nests. We found no effect of vegetation cover on breeding performance. Laying date showed a positive effect on egg volume and a negative effect on hatching success and the number of hatched eggs. Egg volume tended to be smaller in 2020 compared to 2018 and 2019, and hatching success decreased through the sampling period, with the lowest hatching success occurring in 2020. Our findings agree with a previous study in which vegetation had no or unclear effects on breeding performance in Yellow-legged Gulls; however, they contradict other seabird studies that found a positive correlation between the two variables. The role of vegetation on breeding performance could vary not only between gull species, but also geographically, with ecological drivers such as intra- and interspecific interactions and climate playing key roles in observed differences. Finally, the use of egg volume and hatching success as proxies for breeding output could be used for the long-term monitoring of the relationship between breeding performance and factors such as landfill management, fishing, or climate change in the Yellow-legged Gull and other gull species.


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