Lesser Black-backed Gull
Status: Summer visitor to lakes and coasts from March to September, wintering in Iberia and northwest Africa. Winter visitor in small numbers along eastern and southern coasts, probably from Iceland and the Faeroe Islands.
Conservation Concern: Amber-listed in Ireland due to its localised breeding population. The European population is regarded as Secure by BirdLife International.
Identification: A large gull, which in adult plumage has dark grey upperwings, showing black tips with white 'mirrors' (white at the very tips surrounded by black); the rest of the plumage is white. Adult birds have heavy yellow bills with a orange spot on the lower bill, the head is pure white in the summer and streaked in the winter; the legs are yellow. Lesser- black Back Gulls have four age groups and attain adult plumage after three years when they moult into adult winter plumage. Juveniles are grey with finely patterned feathers which fade in the first year, especially the wing and tail feathers which are retained through the first summer. Juvenile and first year birds do not have any plain dark grey adult like feathers in the upperparts and can be difficult to tell apart from immature Herring Gulls and Greater Black-back Gulls. Dark grey in the upperparts develops from the second winter onwards, initially mostly in the mantle and back and becomes more extensive over the wings as the bird moves towards maturity. Younger immature birds have a dark terminal tail band which becomes less prominent as they get older, adult birds lack this band completely.
Similar Species: Herring, Yellow-legged and Great Black-backed Gulls.
Call: Similar to Herring Gull, but more nasal and deeper in tone.
Diet: Takes a wide variety of prey including fish from the sea, waste from fisheries, rubbish from landfill sites, insects in flight, young birds and food from other birds.
Breeding: Breeds colonially, often with other gull species especially Herring Gull. Nests on the ground. Will use a variety of sites, including off shore islands, islands in inland lakes, sand dunes and coastal cliffs. Small numbers also nest on roof tops in Co. Dublin. Most colonies in Ireland are on the coast, mostly on the west coast. Most inland colonies are found in Co. Mayo and in Co. Donegal.
Wintering: In the winter, the species is found in a wide variety of habitats both inland and along the south and east coasts. The largest numbers occur after the breeding season in autumn when migrating birds pass through Ireland in great numbers.
Where to See: A trip to the west in the breeding season should be productive, larger colonies are found off the County Kerry coast, but the species also breeds off the east coast on Lambay Island. Inland breeders can be seen on Lough Mask. Large numbers can be seen, especially during September and October along the south coast, especially good sites are Ballycotton in Co. Cork, Dungarvan Harbour in Co. Waterford and the River Slaney in Co. Wexford.
Monitored by: Wintering birds are monitored through the Irish Wetland Bird Survey. Breeding seabirds are monitored through surveys carried out every 15-20 years, the last was Seabird 2000, which was undertaken between 1998 & 2002.