Species Of The Week Number 8: Seagull (not)

I am sure you already know officially that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SEAGULL? Good news for seaside chip lovers - except all it means is there is no species officially called a 'Seagull'. There are gazillions of gull species around the world, at least 25 of which have been seen in Britain.

The species can be frustratingly tough to tell apart - as they are nearly all mainly white with black bits somewhere or other on them. What makes it even harder is that they have different plumages in different seasons, and also different plumages at different ages. This amusing poster shows a simple way of getting over this problem: https://i.redd.it/upigiegrup191.jpg

In Meanwood Valley the easiest place to see gulls on the ground at the moment is on the Woodhouse Cricket Club pitch, next to Meanwood Road. More often than not there's a small flock hanging out on the grass.

There are three main species to look out for in Meanwood:

The most numerous are the Black-headed Gulls. Guess what colour heads they have?.... WRONG! Its winter so they are in winter plumage, and their heads are all white, albeit with a two darker spots. (Neither are they black in summer, more a chocolatey brown). They have a red beak and red legs. Fun fact: well into the 20th century their eggs were harvested for food in commercial 'gulleries', with one in Norfolk producing over 1000 eggs per day.

Herring Gulls are significantly bigger than Black-headed Gulls and are our traditional 'seaside' gull. They look tough and can be aggressive. Mature adult birds have yellow beaks with a distinctive red spot at its base. They have a light grey back and upper wings and white head and underparts. Fun fact: Herring Gull calls feature on the theme tune of Desert Island Discs.

The third species you might see is a Common Gull which in size is between a Herring and Black-headed. Its head is streaked grey in winter and it has a dark eye. It looks much gentler than a Herring Gull. Fun fact: The Common Gull is not as common as the Black-headed or Herring Gull.

If you want to compare pictures of all three species, all taken at the cricket ground in the last few weeks then check out the species in the Meanwood Road Bioblitz or pop over to The Meanwood Road Project Instagram page (the.meanwoodroadproject)

If you are hooked and want to see thousands of Gulls this winter (including even more gull species) then check out the winter roost at the west end of Eccup Reservoir. A local birder, Paul Singleton (@PaulSin85868921 on Twitter) has been surveying them continuously there since the early 1960's!

Posted on November 16, 2022 12:45 PM by clunym clunym


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