GPS tracking during parental care does not affect early offspring development in lesser black-backed gulls

Marwa M. Kavelaars, Eric Stienen, Hans Matheve, Roland-Jan Buijs, Luc Lens, Wendt Müller

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Tracking devices are increasingly used to monitor individual movement patterns continuously and in high resolution. However, carrying a device could potentially compromise an individual's physiology or behaviour, thereby making tracking data unreliable for detailed behavioural measurements. To this end, we assessed the possible consequences of the application of GPS devices on offspring development in an opportunistic seabird species, the lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus), by comparing the growth and survival of nestlings of which none, one or both parents were equipped with a GPS device. We found that the developmental trajectories of the nestlings were not affected, and there were no differences in skeletal size and body mass at the fledging stage. A lack of negative effects on offspring development strongly suggests that the parental behaviour, and thus likely the foraging behaviour, did not differ between tagged and non-tagged individuals. The evidence that GPS data can be used to reliably study parental care, as well as other aspects of the bird's behaviour, opens up new possibilities to study behavioural and evolutionary ecological questions in ever-increasing resolution.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)87-94
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - May-2018

Thematic list

  • Ports
  • Sea and coastal birds

EWI Biomedical sciences

  • B280-animal-ecology

Taxonomic list

  • gulls and terns (Laridae and Sternidae)


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