The Lesser Black-backed Gull was classed as “Amber” in the most recent Birds of Conservation Concern and is declining at a number of breeding colonies where it is protected, included Skokholm and Walney. These tags gather high quality information that is already providing valuable insights into the habitats these birds use, which could be used to improve their conservation and management.
|Lesser Black-backed Gulls breeding on Skokholm Island, photograph by Richard Brown|
The birds were tagged in May, at which time they were incubating eggs and we are now receiving regular updates on where they have been, the altitude they are flying at and how long they spend in certain areas. Initially almost all birds from Skokholm went inland every day to feed, visiting reservoirs and agricultural areas throughout Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, as well as towns like Milford Haven and Pembroke. However, once their chicks started hatching towards the end of May, birds began to fly out to sea, suggesting these gulls were seeking high quality fresh fish for their youngsters. Recently, one female travelled as far as the Isles of Scilly before returning to her nest site, while another bird visited Great Saltee Island off the coast of Ireland.
|A Lesser Black-backed Gull breeding on Skokholm makes a day trip to Ireland|
Lesser Black-backed Gulls tagged on Walney Island have spent time in Barrow and other local urban areas, where gulls are not always popular. However, many birds have flown straight over these locations on their way to parts of the Lake District, while others have journeyed far out into the Irish Sea. Birds that do visit towns have tended to favour destinations like Blackpool, while others have made day trips as far afield as Warrington.
You can see where our birds have been going for yourselves if you keep an eye on these pages hosted by researchers at the University of Amsterdam, who made our gulls’ tags:
This project would not have been possible without the help of Skokholm Wardens Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, and Matt Lipton, Warden at South Walney.
For more information on this BTO project and to watch our gulls on the BBC One Show click here