HUIG N. & E. KLEYHEEG (2015) Divorce and mate-change in Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus, exception or rule?. LIMOSA 88 (3): 125-127.
Colony breeding seabirds, including large gulls, are generally thought to show a high degree of pair fidelity, even though studies on some species show divorce rates of up to 43%. Fidelity to the breeding colony is proposed as a key factor influencing divorce rates. While birds returning to the same breeding colony are considered likely to retain the same partner, we describe an example in Lesser Black-backed Gulls showing the opposite. A colour-ringed male from a breeding colony in the Netherlands with a high density of colour-ringed individuals chose a new partner each year for three consecutive years (Fig. 2), despite the fact that its former partners had also returned to the same location to breed. The ex-partners of this individual appeared paired with other males known to have previously bred within tens of meters away in the same colony. A mismatch in timing of arrival after spring migration between partners seems a probable explanation, but could not be verified in this study. Interestingly, in all divorce cases ‘old neighbours’ appear to have been selected as new partners. Our sightings indicate
that Lesser Black-backed Gulls change partners quite frequently
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