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posted by janrinok on Tuesday January 30, @09:15AM   Printer-friendly

https://phys.org/news/2024-01-gulls-swap-natural-urban-habitats.html

A recent study published in Ecological Informatics by a team of University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers has used artificial intelligence to further illuminate a habitat swap among short-billed gulls.

Typically gulls live along coastlines and near water sources such as rivers. They feed on bugs and other small mammals, fish or birds.

The team found that from May to August, short-billed gulls occupied areas that have typically been the haunts of scavenging ravens. Those include supermarket and fast-food restaurant parking lots and other human-made structures, such as industrial gravel pads and garbage dumpsters.

The study is the first of its kind to compile a three-year dataset using a citizen science-based, opportunistic research method to include a large sample of gulls and other sub-Arctic birds in urban Alaska. The study provides a current snapshot of the habitat shift to an urban landscape.

UAF professor Falk Huettmann, first author on the paper, and his team used artificial intelligence modeling that was given predictors—environmental variables for specific locations—to extrapolate information about the gull occurrences. A similar, earlier study analyzed the distribution of the great gray owl.

In this study, researchers used U.S. census data as well as urban municipality data, such as distances to roads, restaurants, waterways and waste transfer stations.

"Using socioeconomic datasets like the U.S. census is a real game-changer," said Moriz Steiner, a graduate student in Huettmann's lab. "It allows us to mirror the real-world environment and simulate a situation as true to nature as possible by including them as variables in the models."

The findings indicate that the gulls' transition from natural habitats to a more urban landscape is spurred by the availability of human food, as well as industrial changes.

"They are exploiting the waste opportunity left behind by humans," said Huettmann, who is associated with UAF's Institute of Arctic Biology.

More information: Falk Huettmann et al, Model-based prediction of a vacant summer niche in a subarctic urbanscape: A multi-year open access data analysis of a 'niche swap' by short-billed Gulls, Ecological Informatics (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoinf.2023.102364


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday January 30, @01:03PM (4 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday January 30, @01:03PM (#1342388)

    Rivers are basically surface waste removal systems, even before human activities.

    Now with human cities around, why wouldn't the birds flock to the more abundant food sources?

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    🌻🌻 [google.com]
    • (Score: 5, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 30, @01:53PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 30, @01:53PM (#1342393)

      Crows. They seem to already be competitors in those areas. I've wondered why seagulls being bigger birds aren't more widespread inland where crows and pigeons dominate. Someone claims:

      https://old.reddit.com/r/Damnthatsinteresting/comments/17x9zi9/difference_between_a_seagull_and_a_crows_accuracy/k9n7ga0/ [reddit.com]

      I asked a biologist why when I was a kid, there were seagulls everywhere and now we see crows and ravens instead (Québec). He said: "simple, seagulls are intensively competitive birds and they began to attack corvids. Well, crows can't fight seagulls, so they attacked their nest instead. In a decade, the numbers of seagulls plummeted".

      Don't fuck with crows. They'll kill your babies.

      • (Score: 2) by Revek on Tuesday January 30, @03:28PM

        by Revek (5022) on Tuesday January 30, @03:28PM (#1342409)

        Crows are smart and they won.

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        This page was generated by a Swarm of Roaming Elephants
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by aafcac on Tuesday January 30, @06:56PM (1 child)

        by aafcac (17646) on Tuesday January 30, @06:56PM (#1342423)

        IIRC, that's a similar way to how grey squirrels came to dominate through most of the US rather than just the East Coast.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday January 30, @10:47PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday January 30, @10:47PM (#1342451)

          It's also how the fire ants took out the quail in Florida, not that the fire ants benefit in any way from a lack of quail, it's just what they do.

          50 years ago quail were everywhere, including on the wooded borders of subdivisions. Great flocks would "flush" when you disturbed them, and you couldn't go a year without seeing dozens of flocks.

          20 years ago was the last time I saw a flock of quail, and that was in deep woods/scrub - basically perfect quail habitat.

          These days... most Floridians (who are looking) tend to see a quail maybe once every few years, if that often.

          --
          🌻🌻 [google.com]
  • (Score: 2) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Tuesday January 30, @04:10PM (1 child)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Tuesday January 30, @04:10PM (#1342413)

    a team of University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers has used artificial intelligence to further illuminate a habitat swap among short-billed gulls.

    No: they've plugged the word "artificial intelligence" in their paper to get published. Because if whatever your shit is doesn't have AI in it, you're yesterday's news.

    At any rate, it doesn't take intelligence - artificial or otherwise - to know birds stick around where they find food. Anybody who's ever been assaulted by pigeons in a town square knows that. And gulls have always been famous for being even less picky than pigeons.

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday January 30, @10:49PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday January 30, @10:49PM (#1342452)

      I particularly like the bald eagles that stake out the salmon canneries in Alaska - a Hitchcockian attack of those birds would be absolutely deadly.

      --
      🌻🌻 [google.com]
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