Monday, 25 April 2011

Yellow-legged gull

Larus michahellis

Common name:

Order Charadriiformes
Family Laridae

This species is found throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea, along the western coast of Iberia up to the Gulf of Biscay and in the Atlantic archipelagos of Madeira, Azores and Canary islands.

The yellow-legged gull is 52-68 cm long and has a wingspan of 120-155 cm. They weigh 800-1.500 g.

This species breeds in large colonies of thousands birds on coastal cliffs and rocky islands, but also inland, including urban areas. It also nests on rocky or sandy islands, beaches, and grassy islets with bushes on streams. Outside the breeding area they are mostly found in coastal areas, often following fishing boat, inside harbours and urban areas, but also along rivers and in agricultural fields.

The yellow-legged gull feeds primarily on fish and crustaceans, and destroys the clutches of terns, petrels and shelducks. It also frequents rubbish dumps and consumes various other invertebrates, small mammals, molluscs and lizards.

These birds start breeding in March-April. They form large colonies, nesting on the ground, on and between rocks, on sand or pebbles. The nest is a cup-shaped scrape, lined with grass, twigs, algae and debris. There the female lays 2-3 eggs which are incubated for 26-31 days. The semi-precocial chicks are fed by both parents in and around the nest and fledge 40-48 days after hatching.

IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a very large breeding range. The global population size is unknown owing to recent taxonomic splits, but is estimated to be well above 200.000 individuals. Although this species is affected by factors like oil pollution, long-lining, habitat destruction and disturbance from tourism at breeding sites, the overall population trend is increasing and the species is even considered a pest in some areas.

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