Wednesday 26 June 2024

26-6-2024 RACO DE OLLA, VALENCIA - BLACK HEADED GULL (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)

The Black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) is a small and one of the most abundant gulls in much of Europe and Asia, and also in eastern Canada. It displays a variety of compelling behaviors and adaptations. Some of these include removing eggshells from one's nest after hatching, begging co-ordination between siblings, differences between sexes, conspecific brood parasitism, and extra-pair paternity.

The summer adult has a chocolate-brown head (not black, although does look black from a distance), a pale grey body, black tips to the primary wing feathers, and a red bill and legs. The hood is lost in winter, leaving just two dark spots. Immature birds have a mottled pattern of brown spots over most of the body and a black band on the tail. There is no difference in plumage between the sexes. In flight, the white leading edge to the wing is a good field mark. First-year birds have a black terminal tail band, more dark areas in the wings, and, in summer, a less fully developed dark hood.

Black-headed gulls breed in much of Europe, Asia, and in coastal eastern Canada. Most of their populations are migratory and winter further south, but some birds reside in the milder westernmost areas of Europe. Some Black-headed gulls also spend the winter in northeastern North America. They breed in large reed beds or marshes, or on islands in lakes, rivers, lagoons, deltas, and estuaries. They may also occur in ponds, canals, and flood lands, nesting on the heather moors, sand dunes, or beaches. During the winter these birds are found in estuaries with sandy or muddy beaches, ploughed fields, moist grasslands, reservoirs, urban parks, farmland, and gardens.

Black-headed gulls are highly gregarious birds, both when feeding or in evening roosts; they also breed in colonies. They are rarely seen at sea far from coasts. Black-headed gulls are active during the day and feed mainly by taking prey from the surface while swimming, or by dipping the head under the surface. They also walk along the coasts and probe for aquatic prey or catch flying insects on the wings. Black-headed birds are noisy, especially in colonies, with a familiar "kree-ar" call. When feeding they utter a sharp “kek-kek”.

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