What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #12 Silver Gull

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#12 Silver Gull
(Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae)

The Silver Gull, or more commonly called the “seagull”, has adapted well to human arrival in Australia and in some places has become a problem or pest species. If you have ever tried eating food down the beach then you will know what I mean. This behaviour by the birds is our own fault. We feed them because it makes us feel good, at least till they start to become aggressive and then we try to get rid of them by giving them more food, reinforcing a negative behaviour. They even scavenge through old food scraps in bins and at tips in search of their tasty morsels. It is far better to let them find their own food than feed them processed foods.

The Silver Gull’s are primarily white with grey wings (silverish) with the tips spotted black. They have orange legs and beak as well as the eye ring. Juvenile birds tend to have a brown colour on their wings and darker beaks.

Silver Gull’s can be found around Australia, primarily around the coast. They will not wander far out to sea preferring to stay close to land. They can however also be found on inland waterways. As they have adapted well to the urban environments you will often find them around areas were they could scavenge food and nest on large rooftops in colonies.

Nests consist of usually of coastal vegetation and in normal environments they will nest on the ground or on low shrubs and bushes and may even use man made structures such as jetties. They will lay between 1 and 3 eggs.

Their diet when not consuming food scavenged from humans generally consists of worms, crustaceans, insects and fish.

It is not uncommon to see Silver Gull’s that have injuries or missing part of a leg. This is often the result of being caught in discarded fishing line, which can get caught around the legs of the birds. Discarded fishing line and even the 6 pack can holders can be fatal to a range of wildlife when they get caught in it. Six pack can holders should be split to eliminate the possibility of wildlife getting caught in them and along with fishing line disposed of properly. Some jetties around the bays have collection points for discarded fishing line and these should be used were available or rubbish taken home for domestic rubbish collection.

© Habitat Ecology 2012

Silver Gulls

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