GPS tracking reveals landfill closures induce higher foraging effort and habitat switching in gulls

Liam P. Langley, Stuart Bearhop, Niall H. K. Burton, Alex Nz. Banks, Tim Frayling, Chris B. Thaxter, Gary D. Clewley, Emily Scragg, Stephen C. Votier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Landfills are a major subsidy for some animals, with implications for their life history and demography. Gulls feed extensively on food from landfills and closures are expected to have ecological consequences, but how this influences movement ecology is virtually unknown.

Methods: We used GPS-tracking to quantify foraging behaviour and habitat choice of lesser black-backed gulls (Larus fuscus) breeding at two colonies before and after closure of two nearby landfills.

Results: Following closure, gulls from both colonies travelled further and for longer to forage. Gulls also changed habitat selection, although this differed by colony - birds from one colony shifted to agricultural habitats, while at the other, increased their use of urban areas. These behavioural responses had no effect on adult body condition but hint at potential direct effects of higher foraging costs and indirect impacts by shifting to new habitats.

Conclusions: Our results demonstrate how landfill availability influences gull foraging movements and habitat selection. We also emphasize the value of biologging to detect rapid behavioural responses in contrast to more conventional demographic approaches, which is especially important for animals that spend the majority of their lives away from direct observation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number56
JournalMovement Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2021


  • Anthropogenic Change
  • Generalists
  • Larus fuscus
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • Management
  • PAFS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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