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A lightweight radiotelemetry system with a range of 80 km was used to monitor heart rate from free-ranging Herring Gulls on flights of up to 20 km. Heart rate varied from 130 beats/min in a resting bird to 625 beats/min for sustained flight. Soaring birds showed rates similar to those of birds sitting quietly on the ground. Simultaneous records of telemetered heart rate and intraspecific conflict on the nesting island revealed that cardiac acceleration preceded overt visual communication. Intensely aggressive behavior was accompanied by heart rates approaching those of sustained flight. Heart rate as a measure of metabolic cost indicates that the gull's behavioral adaptations for long-distance flight, food location and intraspecific communication result in major energy savings.


This work is freely available courtesy of the Central Ornithology Publication Office, the American Ornithologists' Union, and University of California Press.

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