Biologists measure an animal’s reproductive fitness by the number of viable offspring produced, so reproductive behavior is considered a critically important aspect of an organism’s biology. Copulation by most birds is relatively quick and silent, but copulation in gulls involves highly visible wing-flagging and loud vocalizations. Copulation behavior and the male’s copulation song have not been described for any species of gull. We aim to describe the temporal and spectral features of the male’s copulation song and the influence that abiotic environmental factors have these features. Poisson distribution analysis indicated that the copulation mounts were not were not randomly distributed in space and time in a large area of the breeding colony, suggesting social facilitation may play a role in copulation behavior of these birds. For three weeks during the 2012 nesting season, we closely observed copulation behavior and recorded male copulation songs for approximately 30 pairs of Glaucous-winged Gulls. Average duration of a copulation mount was 87 seconds and the average number of cloacal contacts per mount was 2.45. Copulation song analysis is underway. This study provides the first baseline data for understanding the impact of the dramatic behaviors associated with gull copulation on reproductive fitness in detail.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/shandelle_henson/32/