Post-Reproductive Pacific Salmon, Oncorhynchus spp., as a Major Nutrient Source for Large Aggregations of Gulls, Larus spp.

K. S. Christie, T. E. Reimchen


On the Pacific coast of North America, the most abundant vertebrate visitors to estuaries and rivers during salmon migration are gulls, yet the utilization of salmon nutrients by these scavengers, and subsequent ecological impacts are not well documented. On two forested watersheds on the central coast of British Columbia, we tracked gull abundance during the spawning period for two consecutive years, and estimated consumption of post-reproductive salmon carcasses and eggs, as well as guano production. At Clatse River, gulls (Larus glaucescens, L. argentatus, L. thayerii, L. californicus, L. canus, L. philadelphia) consumed 13-26% of total salmon carcass biomass and 29-36% of all salmon eggs deposited in the system. At Neekas River, gulls consumed 11-19% of salmon carcass biomass and 7-18% of total salmon eggs. Local guano production over the 60-day period ranged from 600 kg to 1190 kg at Clatse and from 1200 kg to 2100 kg at Neekas River, and was distributed to marine, estuarine, freshwater and riparian habitats. The large aggregations of gulls and subsequent nutrient cycling observed on our study watersheds may represent a once widespread phenomenon that is now largely reduced due to recent declines in salmon populations.


Gulls; Larus; nutrients; Oncorhynchus; salmon; spawning; consumption; eggs; carcasses; British Columbia

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