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Meet the species: Great Black-Backed Gulls

The enormous shadow of the great black-backed gull strikes fear into the hearts of many birds. Being the largest member of the gull family, the black-backed gull is an apex predator, rarely having to deal with threats.

This has meant that we are often comparing them to raptors rather than to other gulls, as they consume almost anything they can swallow. Regularly hunting fish, crustaceans and smaller birds, including Manx shearwaters, moorhens, rock pigeons and ducks.

Even young lambs have fallen prey to these aerial opportunists.

Their distribution is seen across the northern  fringes of the world, except for the Arctic. These gulls can be found along the northernmost coast of Russia, through Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea, and all the way to Iceland and the Atlantic coasts of southern Greenland and Canada. They breed along coastlines, most commonly on rocky ledges lined with twigs, grass, seaweed and feathers.

The eggs take almost a month to hatch. However, once the hatchlings break through their tough, speckled eggs, they are quick to vacate the nest. They conceal themselves amongst the undergrowth while their parents hurry back and forth with food.

This lasts for around two months, which means the parents spend a considerable portion of their year raising young.

These fledglings take several years to gain their trademark black backs. Slowly, they evolve into the aerial threat of their parents.

 

 

Alexander S. Howson

Alexander S. Howson is a naturalist and nature writer.

Along with a heavy interest in Aquatics, birds and ecology. Alexander now directs a large deal of energy attempting to re-educate the public about aquatics and promoting the conservation of a range of wildlife species.

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