Nest defense is a critical aspect of parental care that entails both costs and benefits. The purpose of this study was to examine patterns of nest defense in a colony of Arctic and Common Terns (Sterna paradisaea and S. hirundo, respectively) using observations of natural predators: Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) and Great Black-backed Gulls (L. marinus). Tern nest-defense scores were higher for hunting gulls than for overflying gulls and for gull flights closer to the ground. Defense scores also were significantly higher during the chick stage than during the egg stage. Within the chick stage, response score initially increased with age, but then declined. The results of this study indicate that terns vary their defense in relation to characteristics of predators and offspring that influence the costs and benefits of defense.
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