31 January 2013

Hola Great Black-backed Gull

We recently received the following snippet of news from Euan Ferguson (Grampian Ringing Group):

A couple of months ago we blogged about the unusual colour ring sighting of a Common Gull chick seen in North West Spain (Hola Common Gull). We have now had another gull chick (bizarrely ringed on the same day!) sighted in Spain only 7 miles away from our Common Gull; however this time it is a Great Black-backed Gull.

On the 30th June 2012, after a morning ringing 180 Common Gull chicks on moorland, we headed to Whinnyfold seabird colony. Here we ringed 90 gull chicks on a tidal stack (above), most of which were Herring Gulls, but we also colour-ringed three Great Black-backed Gulls (below); the first chicks of this species to be ringed in our project.

We heard nothing more of these birds until 13th January, when T:013 was reported from Ares beach, A Coruña, Spain (below). What makes this sighting more interesting is that very few British-ringed Great Black-backed Gulls are reported in southern Europe. According to the BTO's online ringing report, only three individuals have previously been recorded in Spain, and one in Portugal. The majority of birds found abroad are in Scandinavia.

So far in our project we've mainly colour-ringed Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, with only 16 Great Black-backed Gulls ringed to date. But despite this small number, we have received three foreign sightings of other birds ringed on the same day; one in Germany and two in Denmark. Such a high return rate from so few birds ringed really demonstrates the value of colour rings on this species.

All large gulls ringed in North East Scotland are fitted with a yellow colour ring on the left leg, starting with T: and followed by three numbers or two numbers and a letter. Please report sightings to e.ferguson17@hotmail.co.uk

Thanks to Euan for letting us know about this and providing Scottish photos and to Antonio Gutierrez for the photo of T:013 in Spain.

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