© Stuart M Bennett 2000

Herring Gull
Great Black Backed Gull

Lesser Black Backed

Common Gull



Black Headed Gull

In spite of their common name, seagull, most gulls are shorebirds, seldom venturing far out to sea, but often penetrating inland to scavenge on tips, parks and reservoirs, and in towns and cities near the coast, are a major problem. Gulls will follow the plough as readily as they follow steamers and fishing vessels. There are six species which breed in the British Isles, and many have increased their numbers so much that they now are construed as nuisance pest birds (if there are any environmentalists out there, a lot of this increase has occurred since the ban on collecting birds eggs, but with an equivalent blame on the amount of rubbish that the human species generate today). Such is their increase that they pollute water, damage buildings, damage cars and attack other seabirds at nesting sites (see the main pest bird page for damage that is done).

Gulls are 11 to 27 inches long and have long wings. They're very good flyers and experts at soaring (riding the wind without moving their wings). They have white underparts, distinctive coloured legs and bills and their upper parts vary from black to light grey. Many species have white markings on a black background on the wings, these markings are known as "mirrors", and some have a black or brown hood in the breeding season. Most gulls find cliffs, stacks and uninhabited islands ideal for breeding, but colonies of herring, common and black backed often nest in coastal dunes or on bogs and marshes far inland. They lay three or four pear shaped eggs and the chicks are well camouflaged as a defence against predators. Juveniles soon leave the colonies and all species show distinctive plumage during the first year of life. The largest of the birds take three to five years to mature, during which they have several different types of plumages...confusing isn't it...this can make identification difficult.

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