Monday, 5 October 2015

Silver Gulls

The Silver Gull is one of our best-known native birds. Love them or hate them you have to admire their bold and adventurous spirit that has seen them adapt very well to human settlements and range far inland from their preferred coastal habitats.
A gregarious species, they are also highly quarrelsome and some birds seek through aggressive display to assert dominance in groups, especially where there is competition for food. A good place to see this behavior is in a park, preferably in close proximity to take away food shops, where left over fish and chips or other food is being fed to a group of Silver Gulls. There is inevitably one cranky adult bird that puts on an aggressive display in an attempt to force other birds away. The bird is often so engrossed in the aggressive activity that it misses out on food opportunities.
Recently on the beach at Point Lonsdale I came upon a lone adult Silver Gull with a very brilliant scarlet bill and legs and decided to take a photo.
Adult Silver Gull on beach at Point Lonsdale.
While still looking through the camera viewfinder the bird commenced a display I have seen many times before and which I take to be an aggressive display to assert dominance over other gulls.
The neck is arched and a harsh guttural call is made.
The neck is further arched and the call becomes more strident.
However in this case the bird was alone, so what was the point of this display?
Then the display changed to a bow like position with the neck arched in the opposite direction.
Then suddenly another gull landed and the cause for the display became obvious. The display had commenced while the second bird was in flight and some distance off.
The first bird stopped displaying and the new arrival started to display.
The first bird with its head held high and keeping its back to the display going on behind.
The second bird’s display continued.
Then suddenly the first bird spun around and pecked the second one on the back. With that decisive aggressive act the new comer departed.
I am really not sure what to make of the behavior captured in the above shots however it does appear to demonstrate the Silver Gull’s quarrelsome nature, seen here even when food is not involved and there was plenty of space available on the beach for both birds.
An alternative explanation for the behavior may be that the first bird was a female, the male and female look the same, and the second bird was a male coming in to try and woo the female, no doubt gulls have no trouble telling female from male, and she warned him off and eventually had to peck him to make clear she was not interested in his advances?
It is often hard to know what birds are up to!
A little later an adult Silver Gull cruises by the Point Lonsdale lighthouse where a photo taken from slightly above was possible.

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