Black-billed gull in need of help

The Leader (Tasman) - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - AM­BER CAL­MAN

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

AM­BER CAL­MAN

The Black-billed gull

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