Black-billed gull in need of help
They land and steal your fish and chips on a sunny evening at the beach… Or do they?
Black-billed gull, often mistaken for the common ‘‘seagull’’ is actually the world’s most threatened species of gull and New Zealand’s only endemic gull, carrying the status of ‘‘nationally critical’’, yet most people haven’t heard of them.
I’m a 15-year-old ‘‘young birder’’ from St Arnaud. This year, for the second time, I’m campaigning blackbilled gull for Forest and Bird’s Bird of the Year (October 9th to 23rd) in an effort to raise awareness for this special and endangered species of New Zealand bird.
I’ve been trying my hardest to convince everyone I know to vote and squawking about #votegull on social media.
Black-billed gull are also known as tarapuka in Maori, Buller’s gull in English and Larus Bulleri is their scientific Latin name.
Our other species of gull, the redbilled and black-backed gull both can be seen in the same areas as the black-billed gull.
The black-backed gull, however, is much larger and has a distinctive black back, as the name suggests, as well as a bright yellow beak.
Red-billed gull can be harder to tell apart, even more so as juveniles. As adults, the red-billed gull also follows its name, a white gull with a light grey back and stunning red bill and legs.
The juveniles, however, look almost the same as the young blackbilled gull, but the black-billed gull are more slender and have a thinner bill.
Their population is critical, studies show they are decreasing in number.
They occur only in New Zealand and mainly breed in the South Island. Black-billed gull are an inland species, but some populations live in coastal areas, with their close relative, the more well known redbilled gull.
They build their nests in flock groups on the rock beds along New Zealand’s rivers, including many in the top of the South Island.
Nesting here on the ground comes with risks, predation from introduced mammals as well as the native black-backed gull being one of the biggest threats, as well as river water washing away their eggs in bad weather. Also, disturbances caused by people, including being accidentally scared off or driven over.
So maybe cast your vote for an under-bird this Bird of the Year. birdoftheyear.org.nz
The Black-billed gull