Lesser Black-backed Gull

Larus fuscus

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)

A very handsome gull with slate-grey back plumage, pure white under belly, and black and white wingtips. It has a bright yellow bill with a red spot. In summer it has bright yellow legs and a white head, where in winter it has dull yellow legs  and a densely streaked grey-brown head. Juveniles have mottled dark brown plumage, and have black bills. Similar to Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), Yellow-legged Gull and the Great Black-backed Gull.

It feeds on fish, worms, molluscs, and human waste. It also feeds on other seabirds in summer. The nest is made up of a pile of grass on the ground, the female laying 2 or 3 eggs in 1 brood in May. They can live for up to 15 years.

Seen all year round. It breeds on cliffs, islands, moorland, and rooftops. In winter it is found at tips, reservoirs, inland lakes, beaches, and on farmland. Most migrate south to Africa, yet many remain in western Europe. Having increasing their numbers since a decline in the 19th century from persecution, they are again suffering a decline so they are on the RSPB amber list. The UK is home to 40% of the European population, and many are found along the coastlines and on  inland moors in summer. They are becoming increasingly common in urban areas, and even inland locations like the West Midlands. In winter it is mainly found from southern Scotland southwards, on farmland, rubbish tips and reservoirs.

Photograph of Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus), taken December 2013, nature reserve Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Black-headed Gull

Larus ridibundas

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundas)

This is quite a common gull which I see in many places, like when I visit the coast, local parks, lakes and pools. It has variable plumage depending on age and the time of year, but a relatively small-sized sea-bird, with distinctive red beak and red legs.  Greyish back plumage with white underparts, and black tail feathers with a white edge along the forewing. It has  a chocolate-brown or greyish head, or more of a hood, but  never entirely black as the name suggests. It becomes white in winter. The juvenile has a ginger-brown mantle, shoulder, and wing feathers.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundas)

It feeds on almost anything, including fish, worms, insects, seaweed and refuse. It nests in a scrape in the ground, or on cliffs and buildings. Lays two to three eggs which are incubated by both parents for up to about three weeks. It can live for up to 15 years.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundas)

Seen all year round, and found in a wide range of freshwater habitats, as well as coastal areas. It also inhabits farmland where it commonly follows ploughs to feed on disturbed worms and insects, refuse tips, and towns and cities. This species was nearly extinct in Britain during the 19th century, until a dramatic rise in numbers in the 20th century, but now it is slipping back again. Although widespread and our commonest inland gull, and because it has seen a sharp decrease in numbers in recent years, it has an RSPB amber status.

Photograph of Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundas) taken August 2016, Bournemouth Winter Gardens, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Airborn #2

More photographs of Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) sailing overhead as they take to the air currents above the coast cliffs.

Photographs taken of Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) July 2016, East Cliff, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.