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Does Kleptoparasitism by Glaucous-Winged Gulls limit the reproductive success of Tufted Puffins?

Colleen Cassady St. Clair, Robert C. St. Clair, Tony D. Williams
4 (October)
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Interspecies Kleptoparasitism (food stealing) occurs in many seabird species and can sometimes significantly affect host individuals and populations. We investigated effects of kleptoparasitism by Glaucous-winged Gulls (Larus glaucescenosn) a population of Tufted Puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) in which almost all chicks die before fledging in some years. Rates of kleptoparasitism were estimated during two seasons and compared with several spatial and temporal factors that have been predicted to influence kleptoparasitism rates both within and among seasons. kleptoparasitism rates increased from 2% in the first year to 19% in the second, whereas puffin fledging success declined precipitously from 81% in the first year to 11% in the second. Within years, kleptoparasitism rates increased with number of puffins returning with fish, decreased during fair weather, and were unaffected by tidal height. Spatially, those rates increased with puffin burrow density and declined with angle of the nesting slope. Gull kleptoparasitism success increased during foul weather and at higher puffin nesting elevations. Despite those associations, survival of puffin chicks was not influenced by kleptoparasitism activity near their nests although it increased with a coinbination of low elevation and high slope at the nesting burrow. Neither kleptoparasitism nor predation by gulls were exceptional re lative to other seabird colonies and they were unlikely to cause reproductive failures that characterize puffins at that site. Other factors, particularly food shortages at sea, merit further attention in explaining those failures. Received 12 November 1999, accepted 27 March 2001.

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