In a captive-feeding study using Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus), plasma amino-acid concentrations increased in response to an increase in dietary protein. Plasma amino-acid concentrations were also measured in wild Herring Gulls captured during incubation at eight Laurentian Great Lakes colonies. Those concentrations were used as an indicator of protein availability at those locations. Significant differences in amino acid concentrations were observed among colonies. Lower amino acid levels, particularly of the essential amino acids, were measured in gulls nesting on Lake Superior, whereas values in gulls captured on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie were greater. Those geographic differences in protein availability likely reflected spatial differences in availability of high quality prey (e.g. fish). Geographic differences in prey availability probably affected diet composition. Comparison of amino-acid levels in wild birds to reference values obtained through the captive feeding study indicated that gulls nesting on Lake Superior may have been protein limited. Colony-wide estimates of adult female body condition, intraclutch variation in egg size, and productivity were correlated with an index of plasma amino-acid concentrations.

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Journal Auk
Hebert, C.E, Laird Shutt, J. (J.), & Ball, R.O. (Ron O.). (2002). Plasma amino acid concentrations as an indicator of protein availability to breeding Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus). Auk, 119(1), 185–200.