Foraging for high caloric anthropogenic prey is energetically costly

Susanne Van Donk*, Judy Shamoun-Baranes, Jaap Van Der Meer, Kees C.J. Camphuysen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Several generalist species benefit from food provided by human activities. Food from anthropogenic sources is often high in caloric value and can positively influence reproductive success or survival. However, this type of resource may require specific foraging skills and habitat experience with related costs and benefits. As a result, not all individuals utilize these resources equally, with some individuals preferentially foraging in habitats where natural resources of lower energy content are predominant, possibly due to lower energy expenditure of the specific foraging strategy. Methods: Here we investigate whether foraging in habitats which contain high caloric resources of anthropogenic origin is energetically costlier than foraging in habitats with low caloric resources such as intertidal areas or agricultural and natural areas, for example due to increased flight costs, in a generalist seabird, the herring gull Larus argentatus. We use data from GPS trackers with tri-Axial acceleration measurements that allow us to quantify time-energy budgets, representing energy expenditure during foraging trips of herring gulls for each habitat. Results: We show that the rate of energy expenditure is on average 34% higher when individuals forage for high caloric prey in marine and urban areas compared to foraging for low caloric prey in intertidal and agricultural areas. Energetic estimates suggest that if birds would feed completely on these resources, they have to gather ~ 400 kJ per day more to compensate for the higher foraging costs. Conclusions: Energy expenditure differs among foraging habitat and may thereby influence foraging decisions of individual herring gulls. As management of anthropogenic resources changes, so too may the costs and potential benefits of foraging strategies which are strongly tied to human activities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalMovement Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2019


  • Anthropogenic impact
  • Energy expenditure
  • Foraging strategies
  • Larus argentatus
  • Movement


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