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Bird tracking - GPS tracking of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls breeding at the southern North Sea coast
Stienen EWM, Desmet P, Aelterman B, Courtens W, Feys S, Vanermen N, Verstraete H, Van de walle M, Deneudt K, Hernandez F, Houthoofdt R, Vanhoorne B, Bouten W, Buijs RJ, Kavelaars MM, Müller W, Herman D, Matheve H, Sotillo A, Lens L (2014): Bird tracking - GPS tracking of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls breeding at the southern North Sea coast. Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO). Dataset/Occurrence.

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Availability: CC0 To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this dataset has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this dataset.

Notes: To allow anyone to use this dataset, we have released the data to the public domain under a Creative Commons Zero waiver. We would appreciate however, if you read and follow these norms for data use and provide a link to the original dataset whenever possible. If you use these data for a scientific paper, please cite the dataset following the applicable citation norms and/or consider us for co-authorship. We are always interested to know how you have used or visualized the data, or to provide more information, so please contact us via the contact information provided in the metadata, or

Bird tracking - GPS tracking of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls breeding at the southern North Sea coast is a species occurrence dataset published by the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO) and described (v5.5) in Stienen et al. 2016. The dataset contains close to 8.5 million occurrences (GPS fixes) recorded by GPS trackers mounted on 108 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 37 Herring Gulls breeding at the Belgian and Dutch coast. more

The trackers are developed by the University of Amsterdam Bird Tracking System (UvA-BiTS) and allow to study the gulls' habitat use and migration behaviour in great detail. Our bird tracking network is operational since 2013 and is maintained and used by the INBO, the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), UvA-BiTS, Ghent University (Ugent), and the University of Antwerp (UA).

The following information is not included in the dataset and available upon request: outliers, temperature, speed, accelerometer data, GPS metadata (fix time, number of satellites used, vertical accuracy), bird biometrics data measured during tagging (bill length, bill depth, tarsus length, wing length, body mass), life history data (day of ringing, age, resightings by volunteers), as well as growth data of chicks.
Geographic coverage: The tracked birds breed at the southern North Sea coast in three colonies, located in the ports of Zeebrugge (Belgium), Ostend (Belgium) and Vlissingen-Oost (the Netherlands). During the breeding season, their foraging range includes the west of Belgium and the Netherlands, northern France, the North Sea, and the English Channel. The Lesser Black-backed Gulls migrate south in winter, mainly hibernating in the south of Spain, Portugal, and North Africa.
Taxonomic coverage: The dataset contains tracking data from 108 Lesser Black-Backed Gulls (Larus fuscus) and 37 Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) breeding at the southern North Sea coast.
Sampling methods: The birds are tracked with the University of Amsterdam Bird Tracking System (UvA-BiTS). The system is described in detail in Bouten et al. 2013. The lightweight, solar powered GPS trackers periodically record the 3D position and air temperature, and can be configured to collect body movements with the built-in tri-axial accelerometer as well. The system allows to remotely set or change the measurement interval per tracker: the actual interval between measurements is provided in samplingEffort as seconds_since_last_occurrence. The data are stored on the tracker, until these can be transmitted automatically and wireless to a base station using the built-in ZigBee transceiver with whip antenna. This receiver is also used to receive new measurement settings. The spatial range for this communication is restricted to the location of the base station (or antenna network), which is placed near the colony. Data cannot be retrieved from birds that do not return to the colony with the base station. For 4 of the 149 birds fitted with trackers no data were obtained (all LBBG) and their organismIDs (L909202, L907253, L909374, L907411) will thus not be found in the dataset. At the time of publication 92% of the individuals were tracked for more than 10 days and 46% for more than 100 days. The longest tracking period is 1202 days (a HG with organismID H903185). Data received by the base stations are automatically harvested, post-processed, and stored in a central PostgreSQL database at UvA-BiTS, which is accessible to the involved researchers only. The tracking data are exported, cleaned, and enriched for further use on a monthly basis. To create this published version of the dataset, we standardize the data to Darwin Core using an R script, document and (re)publish the dataset on our IPT, and have it harvested by the Global Biodiversity Information System. To extract data from one individual, one can use organismID, which contains the unique metal leg ring code of each bird. Tracker Ids are provided in dynamicProperties as device_info_serial. This field also contains the catch location of the bird (catch_location) and the tracking start date (tracking_started_at).
Study extent: The birds were trapped and tagged at or near their breeding colony at the southern North Sea coast. The colony of Zeebrugge is situated in the western part of the port (51.341 latitude, 3.182 longitude) at sites that are not used for port activities and on rooftops. The first Herring Gulls (HG) nested here in 1987, followed by the first breeding record of Lesser Black-backed Gull (LBBG) in 1991. In the 1990s, the number of breeding pairs strongly increased, with a maximum of 2,336 pairs of HG and 4,760 pairs of LBBG in 2011 (Stienen et al. 2015). Maximum numbers amounted to 2.6% and 1.2% of the biogeographic populations of LBBG and HG (Wetlands International 2015). After 2011 the number of gulls strongly declined due to habitat loss and the presence of foxes (Vulpes vulpes). In the period 2000-2010, Zeebrugge hosted on average 91% of all large gulls in Belgium. This proportion decreased to 33% in 2015 (Stienen et al. 2015). In the colony of Ostend (51.233 latitude, 2.931 longitude), breeding started in 1993. Here the the numbers of breeding pairs are still increasing with a maximum of 505 pairs of HG and 551 pairs of LBBG in 2015 (data INBO). In Ostend most gulls breed on rooftops both in industrial areas and in the town itself. The colony of Vlissingen-Oost also know as “Sloegebied” (51.450 latitude, 3.689 longitude) is located in the industrial port area near Vlissingen. Here the gulls nest on the grassy grounds that are not yet in use for port activities. LBBG started breeding in 1984, and the area is now the second biggest colony of LBBG in the southwestern part of the Netherlands. The numbers of breeding pairs increased from a few hundred in the second part of the nineties to 5,220 pairs in 2011. HG started breeding in 1977 (5-10 pairs) with a maximum of 4,353 pairs in 2008 (Strucker et al. 2013). In 2014 the colony hosted 4,460 pairs of LBBG and 2,276 pairs of HG (Strucker et al. 2015). The number of tagged birds and their trap location per year are: * 2013: 5 HG nesting on the roof of the Vismijn in Ostend and 22 LBBG nesting in the port of Zeebrugge. * 2014: 8 HB nesting on the roof of the Vismijn in Ostend, 1 HG and 24 LBBG nesting in the port of Zeebrugge, and 3 HG feeding on the Visserskaai in Ostend (using a small cannon net). * 2015: 9 HG nesting on the roof of the Vismijn in Ostend, 13 LBBG nesting in the port of Zeebrugge, and 16 LBBG nesting in Vlissingen-Oost. * 2016: 11 HG and 6 LBBG nesting on the roof of the Vismijn in Ostend, 13 LBBG nesting in the port of Zeebrugge, and 18 LBBG nesting in Vlissingen-Oost.
Purpose: As part of our terrestrial and marine observatory for LifeWatch (, the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), Ghent University (Ugent), and the University of Antwerp (UA) are tracking large gull species with lightweight, solar powered GPS trackers. The project builds upon the extensive knowledge the INBO has acquired since 1999, studying in particular postnuptial migration, as well as mate and site fidelity of large gulls, by means of sightings of colour-marked individuals ringed in Belgium and via individual-based life-history studies by Ugent and UA. The data collected through this bird tracking network allows to study the migration patterns and habitat use of the gulls in more detail. Furthermore, data collection is no longer biased towards locations where observers can see colour-ringed birds. To allow greater use of the data beyond our research questions, all data are periodically published as open data.
Issues with the dataset can be reported here
The publication of this dataset was supported by the INBO as part of the Flemish contribution to LifeWatch.

Biology > Birds
Marine/Coastal, Terrestrial, Breeding habitats, Foraging habitats, GPS, Migrations, Observation, Tracking networks, ANE, North Sea, Larus argentatus Pontoppidan, 1763, Larus fuscus Linnaeus, 1758

Geographical coverage
ANE, North Sea [Marine Regions]

Temporal coverage
17 May 2013 - 6 June 2018

Taxonomic coverage
Larus argentatus Pontoppidan, 1763 [WoRMS]
Larus fuscus Linnaeus, 1758 [WoRMS]

Occurrence of biota

Buijs Eco Consult B.V., moredata creator
Universiteit Antwerpen (UA), moredata creator
Universiteit Gent; Faculteit Wetenschappen; Vakgroep Biologie; Onderzoeksgroep Terrestrische Ecologie (TEREC), moredata creator
Universiteit van Amsterdam; Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), moredata creator
Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ), moredata creator
Vlaamse overheid; Beleidsdomein Omgeving; Instituut voor Natuur- en Bosonderzoek (INBO), moredata creator

Related datasets
Parent dataset:
LifeWatch observatory data: GPS tracking network for large birds, more

LifeWatch: Flemish contribution to, more

Based on this dataset
Stienen, E.W.M. et al. (2016). GPS tracking data of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls breeding at the southern North Sea coast. ZooKeys 555(555): 115-124., more
Used in this dataset
Stienen, E. et al. (2016). Monitoring van kustbroedvogels in de SBZ-V 'Kustbroedvogels te Zeebrugge-Heist' en de westelijke voorhaven van Zeebrugge tijdens het broedseizoen 2015. Rapport van het Instituut voor Natuur- en Bosonderzoek, INBO.R.2016.11584874. INBO: Brussel. 37 pp., more
Strucker, R.C.W. et al. (2015). Kustbroedvogels in het Deltagebied in 2014. Delta Project Management: Vlissingen. 58 + bijlagen pp., more
Bouten, W. et al. (2013). A flexible GPS tracking system for studying bird behaviour at multiple scales. J. Ornithol. 154(2): 571-580., more
Strucker, R.C.W. et al. (2013). Kustbroedvogels in het Deltagebied in 2012. Delta Project Management/Rijkswaterstaat. Waterdienst: Vlissingen. 68 + bijlagen pp., more

Dataset status: In Progress
Data type: Data
Data origin: Monitoring: field survey
Metadatarecord created: 2017-06-26
Information last updated: 2020-01-23
All data in the Integrated Marine Information System (IMIS) is subject to the VLIZ privacy policy