Thursday, 29 August 2013

What’s in a name?

Why are our chocolate brown-headed gulls called Black-headed Gulls?

Since arriving from Spain to work on this project, I’ve been puzzled by this! At home, we call them Gaviota Reidora, or laughing gulls, due to their calls...which makes a bit more sense, doesn’t it?

Black-headed Gull, breeding plumage. Ronnie Martin

Anyway, since we started the monitoring programme in Dublin Bay, we’ve counted lots and lots of them. We had a peak count of 5,917 on the low tide count on the 19th of August. We haven’t managed to get any colour-rings just yet, but they are certainly worth looking out for. In the autumn of 2011, a colour-ringed Black-headed Gull was spotted in Booterstown. It turns out that this guy also had his colour ring read Poland in May 2010 and had flown 1,608 km to spend the winter in Dublin.

The re-sighting location and the sighting site in Poland (blue)

As it happens, the Irish Wetland Bird Survey (I-WeBS), which monitors wintering waterbirds throughout the country, is initiating a Gull Roost Survey this winter in order to get a handle on how our winter gulls are faring. If you happen to know of any places where gulls congregate at night roosts, it’d be great if you could let the I-WeBS Office at BirdWatch Ireland know. 

Black-headed Gull in winter plumage. Shay Connolly

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