We collected boluses and food remains of adult Glaucous Gulls (Larus hyperboreus) at or near nests and chicks, and digestive tracts from adults at three sites on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska that differed in proximity to marine and terrestrial foods. We observed both geographic and temporal variation in diet; gulls consumed proportionately more terrestrial prey after peak hatch in late June, and gulls near the coast consumed proportionately more marine prey than gulls at two inland areas. Goslings occurred in > 60% of all samples from these inland areas. We compared these data to those from a previous study in western Alaska and found no marked differences. Evidence for similar patterns of geographic and temporal variation in diet was found using measurements of stable-carbon and nitrogen isotopes in gull and prey tissues. Stable isotope analysis further revealed that adult gulls consumed proportionately more marine prey (saffron cod, Eleginus gracilis) than they fed to their young. Using isotopic models, we estimated that 7-22% and 10-23% of the diet of adult and juvenile Glaucous Gulls, respectively, was comprised of terrestrial species. In addition to significant age-related variation, dietary estimates varied among geographic areas and between pre- and post-hatch periods. Overall, our isotopic estimates of the contribution of terrestrial prey to the diet of Glaucous Gulls was less than what may be inferred from conventional methods of diet analysis. Our study emphasizes the benefit of combining stable-isotope and conventional analyses to infer temporal and geographic changes in diet of wild birds and other organisms.
Additional publication details
Geographic, temporal, and age-specific variation in diets of Glaucous Gulls in western Alaska