Gull Chicks Go Walkabout


Right, let’s get the scientific part out-of-the-way now……

Gulls (often informally called seagulls) are birds in the family Laridae. They are most closely related to the terns (family Sternidae) and only distantly related to auks, skimmers, and more distantly to the waders. Until recently, most gulls were placed in the genus Larus, but this arrangement is now known to be polyphyletic, leading to the resurrection of several genera

Most gulls, particularly Larus species, are ground nesting carnivores, which will take live food or scavenge opportunistically. Live food often includes crabs and small fish. Gulls have prophylactic unhinging jaws which allow them to consume large prey. Apart from the kittiwakes, gulls are typically coastal or inland species, rarely venturing far out to sea. The large species take up to four years to attain full adult plumage, but two years is typical for small gulls. Large White-Headed Gulls are typically long-lived birds, with a maximum age of 49 years recorded for the Herring Gull.

Now I live in a coastal town, We have our fair share of gulls and many of them come inland to nest…..and where better than against the side of a chimney and sloping roof. Just round the corner from me there are three nests and I’ve been keeping an eye on them. A couple of day ago I was rewarded when the chicks were enticed out of the nest by the parents. Lucky for me right time, right place and a good big lens.

Gulls normally nest in large, densely packed noisy colonies. They lay two to three speckled eggs in nests composed of vegetation. The young are precocial, being born with dark mottled down, and mobile upon hatching. As the chicks leave the nest it gives us a chance to appreciate their colouring.

Once they set off I could see they were using both their legs and as yet unformed wings to help them climb. Gulls—the larger species in particular—are resourceful, inquisitive and intelligent birds, demonstrating complex methods of communication and a highly developed social structure. For example, many gull colonies display mobbing behaviour, attacking and harassing would-be predators and other intruders. The lady who’s house they are nesting on said she has had a nest on her roof for the last ten years and inevitably one of the chicks will fall off as they get more active. If it’s during the day they daren’t go near as the parents are very protective and will dive-bomb if you approach too close. Her son usually waits until the evening and its nearly dark before he lifts the chick back onto the roof. Providing the cats don’t get there first.

At this point one of the chicks has left the other behind. The one in front is slightly bigger and probably the stronger of the two.

The smaller one decides it’s time to have a rest as the other one heads on up to the top of the roof where one of the parents is waiting

Having had a bit of a rest the smaller one decides to head back to the nest. Immediately one of the parents flies down and starts a really noise call which makes the chick turn round and head on back up towards the top.

After the smaller one tried to turn back the chicks were more or less bullied into climbing to the top of the roof. Once they started climbing again this parent was behind them constantly calling very loudly.

Onwards and upwards although one of them looks as though it’s trying to hide from the parent who’s forcing them to go up.

Shout it from the rooftoops…..my kid has almost climbed to the top. On a personal note, of all the images I took today this one is my favourite. The angles, clarity and light were just right in my opinion, that’s why I put it in my gallery on MyFinePix.

After a short walk along the rooftop the chicks were allowed to head back to the nest. One parent called them down and the other followed behind. As they settled in the nest both parents joined them

Finally they settled down underneath one of the parents and disappeared from view again

All images in this sequence were taken with a Samsung GX10 SLR fitted with a Sigma 150 – 500mm lens, generally at 500mm focal length. Camera Settings were ISO 100, f8, shutter priority. Light conditions were very good, Post processing consisted of sharpening and a slight touch of NIK Color Efex Tonal Contrast to enhance the chicks downy coats.

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6 comments

  1. Awesome shots of the seagulls. I’ve never seen a baby seagull chick before. Didn’t know they come with spots.They definitely look like nothing I would have imagined. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  2. Last year my family and lived with my mom in North Devon. She lives in a coastal town and has been watching a pair of gulls nest on the roof of the house behind her for years. With my daughters we watched the whole process, just the way you described it! Your photos allow us to see them with much more detail, beautiful.

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    • Thank you for the comment. Some people round here think of them as pests, which to a certain extent they are. Me I see them as a photo opportunity but you don’t half get some funny looks when you are standing in the street with a great big 500mm lens fully extended….

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