The δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S stable isotopic values of feathers from pre-fledged Laughing Gulls (Larus atricilla) in coastal Virginia and Jamaica Bay, New York were used to examine dietary variation during the nestling period. The tip portions of the feathers were used to indicate diet during the initiation of primary feather growth, whereas the base portions indicated diet during the period immediately prior to fledging. The results indicate that diets of the nestlings in Virginia moved to a higher trophic level during the period prior to fledging, however the New York nestlings did not appear to undergo any appreciable dietary change during this period. Overall, nestlings from both colonies consumed proportionately more foods of marine origin than freshwater or terrestrial. Therefore, the results do not support those of earlier studies that suggested that partially developed salt glands in young gulls might restrict the diet to more terrestrial or freshwater prey in the early stages of nestling growth.
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Vol. 25 • No. 2