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Keywords:

  • Sterna spp;
  • Larus spp;
  • Lutra lutra;
  • Mustela vison;
  • Oryctolagus cuniculus;
  • mobbing;
  • model

Abstract

The extent to which anti-predator mobbing can be modified in response to new predators was investigated by examining the response of terns (Sterna hirundo and S. paradisaea) and gulls (Larus fuscus, L. argentatus and L. canus) to introduced mink Mustela vison, native otter Lutra lutra and rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus models in areas inhabited by mink and areas uninhabited by mink. Gulls and terns typically flock over predators of adult birds (a fleeing response), whilst diving at predators of chicks and eggs (an attacking response). Terns in mink-inhabited areas flocked over a model of a mink, but did not dive at it as much as they dived at otter and rabbit models. A stronger fleeing rather than attacking response suggests that adult terns perceive mink as a threat to themselves as well as to their chicks and eggs. Gulls, in comparison, dived at the mink model, indicating that mink are not perceived as a threat to the adults of these considerably larger species. Both gulls and terns showed a much lower level of response to mink in mink-free areas, suggesting that the type and extent of mobbing is altered through experience with predators and the level of risk associated with mobbing the predator.