Mediter­ranean gull

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Gulls are fa­mil­iar birds on Ar­ran, the three most com­mon species be­ing her­ring, com­mon and great black­backed gulls. Among the more un­usual gulls to ap­pear on Ar­ran is the Mediter­ranean gull. One was recorded in May this year in Slid­dery. The last pre­vi­ous record was in June 2015 and be­fore that there is a record from De­cem­ber 1992. Not many, but they could be be­ing over­looked.

In UK terms, it used to be a rare bird. Formerly re­stricted to the Black Sea and the east­ern Mediter­ranean, this species has now ex­panded over most of Europe as far as Great Bri­tain and Ire­land. A Mediter­ranean gull first bred in the UK in Hamp­shire in 1968.

There has been a slow and steady in­crease in the breed­ing pop­u­la­tion since then, the ma­jor­ity in south­ern Eng­land.

Events in Bri­tain have mir­rored those in Europe. For ex­am­ple, in France, the breed­ing pop­u­la­tion in­creased from over 100 pairs in 1991 to nearly 1,400 pairs by 1998. This ex­pan­sion is con­tin­u­ing.

This is clearly demon­strated in a map which shows the changes in the win­ter dis­tri­bu­tion of Mediter­ranean gulls in Great Bri­tain and Ire­land be­tween the at­las of 1981-84 and the most re­cent at­las of 2007-11

Af­ter the breed­ing sea­son, Mediter­ranean gulls mi­grate to­wards the At­lantic coasts and are now an­nu­ally be­ing re­ported in num­bers along the Ayr­shire coast and in the Firth Clyde – for ex­am­ple, 14 on Barassie shore in July 2014.

From ring­ing in­for­ma­tion, these gulls are com­ing from a range of ar­eas in Europe in­clud­ing the Nether­lands, Ger­many, Hun­gary and the for­mer Yu­goslavia.

Mediter­ranean gulls are likely to be around Ar­ran in in­creas­ing num­bers and it is cer­tainly worth check­ing among our fa­mil­iar gulls for this bird whose suc­cess may be down its feed­ing habits. It is an op­por­tunis­tic om­ni­vore, eat­ing fish, worms, scraps, in­sects, of­fal and car­rion.

What to look out for? In the breed­ing sea­son, a gull with a big black head and a big bright red bill. The Mediter­ranean gull can be con­fused with the more com­mon black-headed gull. A fea­ture that can help sep­a­rate the slightly larger Mediter­ranean gull from the black-headed gull is the ex­tent of the black head in the breed­ing sea­son.

In the Mediter­ranean gull, the black hood ex­tends all the way down the back of the head and nape. The black-headed gull has a cho­co­late brown head and the colour does not go down the back of the head and nape. In ad­di­tion, the black-headed gull has a white lead­ing edge to the wing, of­ten able to be seen from a great dis­tance. A Mediter­ranean gull does not have this. Adult Mediter­ranean gull has a very pale grey man­tle and up­per-wings with white wing tips and white un­der-wings, and it has a large, slightly drooped bright red beak/bill. The non-breed­ing adult is sim­i­lar but the hood is re­duced to an ex­ten­sive dusky ‘ban­dit’ mask through the eye. Den­nis Mor­ri­son’s pho­tos cap­ture these fea­tures.

Check your bird book for fea­tures of non-adult birds and for more in­for­ma­tion on iden­ti­fy­ing small gulls with black heads have a look at this Bri­tish Trust for Or­nithol­ogy web­site link https://www.bto.org/ about-birds/bird-id/bto­bird-id-small-black-headed-gulls En­joy your birding. Please send any bird notes with ‘what, when, where’ to me at Kil­patrick Ken­nels, Kil­patrick, Black­wa­ter­foot, KA27 8EY, or e mail me at [email protected]­ran­bird­ing.co.uk I look for­ward to hear­ing from you. For more in­for­ma­tion on birding on Ar­ran pur­chase the Ar­ran Bird At­las 20072012 as well as the Ar­ran Bird Re­port 2017 and visit this web­site www.ar­ran­bird­ing.co.uk

All pho­tos: Den­nis Mor­ri­son

Med gull breed­ing plumage black head and bright red beak.

Med gull with non breed­ing plumage.

Med gull un­der­wing in non breed­ing plumage.

Med gull moult­ing into non-breed­ing plumage.

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