This week I am showcasing Australia’s most common shorebird The Silver Gull (known to most Aussie’s as the Seagull). This bird is found all over Australia, especially around the coast and islands as well as inland. It is an extremely resilient bird, as seen in the photo above taken of a Silver Gull alone, not on the sands of a beach, but on the dry salt plains of Lake Eyre on inland South Australia. The lake was rapidly drying up, yet this gull was still there, and may have died there, like many birds do as the lake dries up, if it does not head coastward. This bird is found on almost every Australian beach in small to large flocks, and has become accustomed to pestering picnickers and those enjoying fishnchips by the water for a handout. If you throw something to one bird, immediately the whole flock comes begging. The bird sounds like this…
The Silver Gull starts life as an egg. We have always seen each stage of development on the old unused part of Busselton Jetty in Western Australia. A very simple seaweed and grass nest is build in the grooves of the warn rotted jetty timbers, where the spotted eggs are laid.
Each bird will sit contentedly on the nest exposed to the elements, predators and the ocean winds.
The good thing is that they have chosen the grey backdrop of the warn timbers because it matches the grey speckled appearance of their nestlings when they are born, and so is a form of camouflage for them. They usually have a clutch of 2 to 3 babies. When the parents fear impending danger they call to the babies to lay low in the nest with heads down, and they usually obey.
Being totally dependent on the parents to feed them, the father sources food from the ocean below the jetty, while mother shows affectionate care for her precious nestlings.
After a year the juvenile starts looking like the parent but remains brown and patterned on the back, again for protection. The legs, beak and eyes remain dark coloured, similar to many other juvenile/immature birds.
By the second year the bird looks more like the adult and with just the eye needing to change to white and the beak and legs to red.
Finally maturity comes, but until then the youngsters fly in the midst of the flock for safety, as you can see here if you look closely, the immatures at various stages.
Soon they are out fending for food themselves. One place they love to be at low tide on the river mud flats is chasing tiny mud crabs, as they scurry across the sand.
As they grab the crab the gull positions it in its mouth by opening its mouth and dropping it in the air and then swallowing it, as seen below.
Here are some flight shots of the bird as they fly toegther.
My favourite flight shot is this one of a juvenile following immediately behind the parent. Here we see the simple trust and obedience of the youngster following the example of its parent. This is why we as parents and grandparents need to always set a good example to our little ones, as they copy everything we do and say, and take it with them into their future life.
We only have two other gulls common to Australia, the Pacific and Kelp Gulls which I will showcase another time. These gulls are found around the southern and south eastern coast of the mainland, and are larger than the Silver Gull, having lipstick like red beak markings. Vagrants from other parts of the world do occur on rare occasions in isolated occurrences, having been blown off course.
“… we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of Spirits and receive life?” – Hebrews 12:9 (NET)
Have a wonderful week, and if you are new to my blog, check out my birding website from the homepage of aussiebirder.com
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