Sleeping gulls monitor the vigilance behaviour of their neighbours

Biol Lett. 2009 Feb 23;5(1):9-11. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0490.


Individuals in groups are often thought to scan their surroundings for threats independently of one another. Models, however, suggest that foragers should monitor the vigilance level of their neighbours to prevent cheating, and to gather information about incipient predation risk. Evidence for monitoring of vigilance is scant. Here, I examined changes in vigilance levels in sleeping gulls (Larus sp.) surrounded by neighbours in various states of alertness. Controlling for group size and neighbour density, gulls interrupted sleep more often to scan their surroundings, and were therefore more vigilant, when their neighbours were alert rather than sleeping or preening. The results provide evidence for copying of vigilance within groups of birds, suggesting a complex flow of information about predation risk in groups.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Charadriiformes / physiology*
  • Population Density
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Sleep*
  • Social Behavior*