British wildlife recordings
Larus fuscus : Lesser Black-backed Gull - Laridae
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Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire: OS Grid Reference(172500,209500)
Lesser Black-backed Gull, Larus fuscus
The call of the lesser black-backed gull, recorded on Skomer island, Pembrokeshire. The lesser black-backed gull is closely related to its cousin the herring gull, although can be distinguished by its darker, slate-grey back and wings, and bright yellow legs. Although the lesser black-backed gull mainly breeds around the coast on sand dunes and shingle, it is also found breeding on upland moors, and in some areas has moved into cities. Young birds are easily distinguished, as with many other gull species, by their brown, speckled plumage. It is most clearly visible when calling with head thrown back and standing on a prominent vantage point. The call is a loud and gruff 'kaw' and is often repeated in a series of barking 'ow-ow-ow' calls. Due to its large size it is able to eat a range of sizeable foods including small mammals such as voles, and even puffins and other small seabirds. Increasingly, the lesser black-backed gull is seen in cities near the coast where birds may also take pigeons. During winter, the lesser black-backed gull ranges widely, often mixing with other gull species and scavenging on rubbish tips. The population increased during the 20th century but it is thought that it is now starting to decline. It is currently estimated that around 88,000 pairs breed in Britain.