Sometimes, things are so common that you tend to overlook them, and pass them by without a second thought. For me, the Black-headed Gull is one of those. Seeing this trio in Memorial Gardens during the week prompted me to find out a bit more about them. The only thing that I really knew was that they were not black headed, more of a dark chocolate brown, and that only in the summer. These are still in their winter plumage.
Although resident, their numbers in the UK are tripled in winter by migrants from the east.
Up until the 1940s Black-headed gull eggs were a major UK industry with up to 300,0000 eggs a year being sold in Leadenhall Market, London.
Nowadays, only a few licensed individuals are permitted to take 1 egg from each nest, at six designated sites, from April 1st to May 15th.
Black-headed Gulls nest on the ground, in colonies, in reed beds, marshes and lake islands.
Top birds get the best sites in the middle of the colony and have a higher breeding success rate.
Although mainly monogamous, females are not above having a bit-on-the-side.
If this results in too many eggs, they are quite likely to dump the excess in another gull's nest.
Egg shells are removed from the colony so as not to attract predators.
Male birds are more likely to be born in the first egg and are bigger than the females.
Parents do not feed the chicks individually, but regurgitate on the ground. First come, first served.
Here are a few seabird books you may like to add to your natural history library.
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