An ecological approach to the management of gulls, in particular the lesser black-backed gull Larus Fuscus (L. 1758)
A study of gull management was made at a large colony of Lesser Black-backed Gulls Ljxrus fuscus on Tambrook Fell, Lancashire. Approximately 18,000 gulls presently breed at the site, and the area utilised by the gulls extends over 6 km2 on three private estates. The main studies were conducted on the Abbeystead Estate between 1992 and 1994. The reasons for increases in the numbers of several gull species in many parts of the world during the 20th century are presented, as well as the conflicts with humans caused by these increases. The practical and moral aspects of managing gulls are evaluated, as well as the conflicts likely to result from recent increases in the urbanisation of several Larid species. The need for management strategies to incorporate up-to-date knowledge of gull demography, density dependence, breeding biology and behaviour are discussed in the light of the limited success of past attempts at managing gulls. Experiments to entirely clear specific areas of the Tambrook Fell Gullery by disturbing breeding gulls are described. The aim was to ameliorate local problems by reducing the extent of the colony using non-lethal management techniques. Disturbance was carried out in a series of 2.25ha experimental plots. Audio, visual and physical disturbance methods, presented singly or in combination, were used to investigate their ability to exclude gulls and prevent breeding. The number of gulls using the plots and the number of nests built were compared with numbers on control plots. Gulls showed habituation to all disturbance methods, although the number of gulls using a plot was reduced during disturbance and a proportion of the original number of gulls were totally excluded. Only where two disturbance methods were utilised on the same plot was breeding completely prevented. It was demonstrated that disturbance was more effective when initiated prior to the start of nest building and when conducted at the edge of the colony, and that disturbance by human presence is an effective method of preventing breeding. In the year following disturbance, only a very few gulls attempted to utilise the disturbed areas, and the need to establish a 'sink' area for birds displaced by disturbance is discussed. In two seasons, a total of 75ha were cleared of breeding gulls. This was 23% of the Abbeystead Estate and 11 % of the total gullery area. This was the first time in over thirty years of management efforts at the colony, that the extent of the gullery was successfully reduced. Models are presented to show the effects of the 1978- 1988 culls on adult survivorship and recruitment into the breeding group at Tambrook Fell. The relative effects of management strategies aimed at survivorship and productivity are discussed. A study was made to quantify the percentage of nests built by gulls at the colony that are not subsequently laid in. Behavioural differences between pairs that failed to lay eggs and pairs that successfully bred are presented. In the past, calculations of the number of breeding gulls at the colony assumed that one nest represented one pair. This was shown not to be true and a correction factor (multiplier) of 0.61 was calculated to allow counts of nests at the colony to be converted to the number of breeding pairs.