Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Common Black Headed Gull

photo © Richard SternCommon Black Headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

The Black Headed Gull adults are roughly 13-17 inches (33-44cm) in length with a 35-41 inch (89-105 cm) wingspan. The summer adult has a chocolate-brown head (not black, despite the name), the body and wings are pale grey, with black tips on the primary wing feathers. The bill is red with a black tip, and the legs are also red. The “black” hood is lost in winter, leaving just a dark vertical streak or spot behind the eye. Setting the Common Black Headed Gull apart from the other “hooded” gulls is the fact that they do no actually have a black head during breeding season.

The Common Black Headed Gull is relatively new to North America, being first seen in Canada in the early 1900's. It is a small gull which breeds in much of Europe and Asia, and also in coastal eastern Canada. Most of the population is migratory, preferring to winter further south, but some birds in the milder westernmost areas of Europe do not migrate. Some birds that reside in eastern Canada will also spend the winter in the northeastern United States.

The Common Black Headed Gull reaches maturity when they are two years old, which is typical of small gulls. Breeding and nesting time frame for Common Black Headed Gulls is usually in April to May.Their nest is typically a shallow depression on the ground lined with vegetation and feathers. The female gull normally lays 2 or 3 eggs. Both parents will take turns feeding the young birds. They prefer to eat insects, small fish, small berries and earthworms. They have been known to follow fishing boats, plunge-diving for smaller fish. They also like to follow plows tilling in fields eating the earthworms and other invertebrates stirred up by this activity.

Courtesy of spwickstrom.com

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