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Jul 302012
 

Black Backed Gull.

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.

Take Off !!. accomplished graceful fliers

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.

Juvenile, This plumage will gradually change in the third and occasionally into the 4th year.

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

Peter Tait

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.


Leave a Comment

  • Peter

    Hi Robin. Major blunder. Of course its a Black BACKED Gull. Teach me to properly proof read, and not to multi task. I was also doing some minor work on Black BILLED gulls at the same time. I’ve never known the Australasian Harrier (we called them Hawks) to interfere with livestock. They would scavange a carcass left in a field, but always the animal had died of other causes.

  • Robin List

    I was a little confused at first, but the photo labelling puts it right. The black billed gull (Larus bulleri), as per the heading is a much smaller, milder mannered endemic NZ gull, paler and more lightly built than the more ubiquitous red billed gull. Like Peter I remember having to keep an eye out for black backs, alias dominicans, during lambing. They did harm for which harriers (Circus approximans) often copped the blame. I think the dominican nomenclature comes from the fancied similarity to a Dominican friar’s black robes when the bird is at rest. Can anyone confirm that?

  • Peter

    Hi Ken, Even within New Zealand many species have a variety of common names, It must get quite impossible with a species as wide spread as Black Backs. But I guess the short answer is yes I think so. My own references claims range of effectively the entire southern hemisphere between at least 30 deg S down to 51 deg south. They get around. I’ve seen birds at least 50 miles from land, though not often.

  • http://focusingonwildlife.com/ Ken Billington

    Peter, when I look it up on Wikipedia I see that Larus dominicanus is called Kelp Gull. Is this what you call Black-backed Gull?

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