Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Ringed Audouin’s Gull

In Menorca recently I took several photographs of the beautiful Audouin’s Gull. The gull was named after the French naturalist Jean Victoire Audouin, who was a bit of an all-round clever clogs, an entomologist, ornithologist and a malacologist (molluscs).

Audouin’s in flight

Audouin's Gull Ichthyaetus audouinii is restricted to the Mediterranean and the western coast of Saharan Africa where it breeds on small islands colonially or alone, laying 2-3 eggs on a ground nest. In the late 1960s, this was one of the world's rarest gulls, with a population of only 1,000 pairs. It established new colonies, but remains rare with a population of about 10,000 pairs. This species, unlike many large gulls, rarely scavenges, but is a specialist fish eater, and is therefore strictly coastal and pelagic. This bird will feed at night, often well out to sea, but also slowly patrols close into beaches.

The adult resembles a small Herring Gull, the most noticeable differences being the striking red bill that invariably looks black in poor light or at a distance and the "string of pearls" white wing primary tips, rather than the large "mirrors" of some other species. The legs are grey-green. It takes four years for a bird to reach adult plumage.

Audouin’s Gull

That Bill

This species shows little tendency to wander from its breeding areas, but there were single records in the Netherlands and England in May 2003.

The Audouin’s patrol the Menorcan beaches all day long and like most gull species have adapted to taking any food left around by humans so tend to linger around beach front cafes and bars. I was lazing by the hotel pool one day when an Audouin’s dropped in for a drink of pool water, a habit shared by the local Yellow-legged Gulls. I was so intent on trying to capture the magnificent shades of red,orange and pink bill that I entirely didn’t notice the bird was both darvic and metal ringed. Only later when I looked at my pictures did I realise how close I came to getting the full metal ring number, two or three digits short at “1558”. Almost certainly the bird was ringed in the Balearics, on one of the offshore islands close to Majorca, Ibiza or Menorca itself but as I have sent the record into the appropriate Spanish authority, time will tell.

Audouin’s Gull

Darvic and metal rings

Yellow-legged Gull

Apologies for no local news today but very unseasonal, blustery weather kept me at home most of the day but I will get out tomorrow.

PS. I got an email from Jordi Muntaner who lives on Majorca. It seems the Audouin’s Gull was ringed as a chick in 2005 on Isla de L’Aire, Menorca. It spent at least some time in Barcelona, mainland Spain in the summer of 2007 but was back in Menorca in 2008 and in May of this year. Thanks Jordi.

23/06/2005-Isla de l'Aire, Sant Luis, Menorca, Balearics

07/05/2007-Platja de l'Arana, Barcelona, Spain - 41º20' N 2º05' E - Ferran López

14/05/2007-Platja de l'Arana, Barcelona, Spain - 41º20' N 2º05' E - Ferran López

15/05/2008-Isla de l'Aire Sant Luis, Menorca, Balearics- 39º48'54"N 4º17'28"E - Jordi Muntaner

06/05/2011-Playa de Sant Tomas, Sant Tomas, Menorca, Balearics- 39º54'47"N 4º2'28"E - P Slade

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