Sleep postures and eye state of free-ranging herring gulls (Larus argentatus) were studied during the breeding season. Three mutually exclusive behaviours were observed, namely sleep, rest-sleep and rest postures. Arousal thresholds, eye blink rates and eye closure time were obtained during these behaviours. Significant relationships existed between eye blinking, eye closure, and a raised threshold of arousal when birds were in the sleep and rest-sleep postures. During a natural disturbance, birds in the sleep posture remained in this posture but did not blink their eyes: this is called pseudo sleep. Male gulls also exhibited a lower threshold of arousal while in the sleep posture compared with females. We conclude that rhythmic eye blinking is a good indication of sleep in herring gulls.
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