California Gull population growth and ecological impacts in the San Francisco Bay estuary, 1980–2016

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Abstract

The breeding population of California Gulls (Larus californicus) in the San Francisco Bay estuary increased from 24 individuals in 1980 to a peak of over 53,000 in 2014, then declined to 38,040 in 2016. The expansion of the breeding population may be related to the availability of suitable nesting sites in close proximity to anthropogenic food subsidies at landfills. Telemetry data indicate that California Gull movements are largely dictated by the two primary landfills in South San Francisco Bay. The large population of California Gulls has had negative effects on locally breeding shorebirds and terns, especially the Forster’s Tern (Sterna forsteri), American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), and Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus nivosus). In South San Francisco Bay, California Gulls were responsible for 13% and 38% of egg predation events at nests of American Avocets and Snowy Plovers, respectively, and 55% and 54% of chick predation events of American Avocets and Forster’s Terns, respectively. The forced relocation of the largest gull colony (~24,000) at Pond A6 in 2010 resulted in increased survival of Forster’s Tern chicks at the adjacent colony at Pond A7 in 2011. The California Gull population and its effects on locally breeding shorebirds and terns are among the most pressing concerns for wetland managers within the San Francisco Bay estuary, especially for the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. Further research is needed to evaluate the gull’s reproductive rates, habitat use, and annual movements and so to clarify its demographics and to quantify its effects on other breeding birds.

Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title California Gull population growth and ecological impacts in the San Francisco Bay estuary, 1980–2016
DOI 10.21199/SWB3.9
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Western Field Ornithologists
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 10 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Title Trends and traditions: Avifaunal change in western North America, Studies of Western Birds No. 3
First page 180
Last page 189