Black Backed Gull.
Apart from heavy forest I doubt there are many places in New Zealand without a Black Backed Gull somewhere nearby.
I grew up on a sheep farm, and without doubt these adaptable gulls were our biggest single pest. Preying on any cast sheep and on just born lambs. In both cases targeting eyes and tongues. From a flock of around 1500 ewes I suppose we would lose 15/20 ewes and lambs yearly. They scavenge any human waste tips and in fact are probably our most adaptable bird.
They are a bird with quite varied social habits. On the one hand we will find breeding groups noisily occupying a rocky headland or socially congregating perhaps on a sandy beach. But equally we will find a pair “owning” a half mile to a mile of mile of rocky coastal shore, often in the most exposed iron bound coast.
Juveniles look somewhat similar to Southern Skua, but lack the skuas distinctive white band in the flight feathers, and also the deeper chest.
For me they are a had bird to relate to, bearing in mind the issues we had with our sheep. But never the less these handsome gulls are great subjects for a camera.
Peter Tait is a professional nature guide based at Stewart Island, New Zealand, and he works primarily on Ulva Island Open Sanctuary. Peter has been resident on the Island for over 40 years and was one time Forest Ranger in Charge of Stewart Island. Fishing followed forestry and was in turn followed by Talisker, a 17m charter yacht. He is qualified Skipper Deep Sea Fishing Vessel. In addition to guiding Peter and his wife Iris are hosts at Sails Ashore Lodge.
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