Environmental conditions in eastern Newfoundland have changed considerably since the 1970s, as both bottom-up oceanographic and anthropogenic influences on seabird populations have fluctuated considerably. The diet, reproductive success, and presumably survival of gulls are intrinsically linked to these processes, and breeding populations have declined considerably through the 1980s and 1990s. To assess the populations of breeding large gulls in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve in eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, nests were surveyed and clutch size determined for Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) and Great Black-backed Gulls (L. marinus) breeding on Great, Gull, and Pee Pee Islands in 2011–2012. The total number of breeding gulls of these two species combined decreased by 41% on Gull Island, 78% on Great Island and 51% on Pee Pee Island since 2000. However, the declines differed among habitat type, with modest declines on puffin slopes (-15% to -52%) and the steepest declines in meadows (-70% to -88%), suggesting that large-scale causative factors are not solely responsible for changes in population size. Clutch size did not differ from that in 2000. Differential recruitment among highly philopatric gulls stemming from bottom-up diet-related variation in breeding success may be responsible for different changes in populations among different habitats.
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Vol. 39 • No. sp1