What a dummy
Last modified: 16 October 2012
An RSPB member was lucky enough to have her camera nearby when she spotted this cheeky young gull with a dummy in its mouth.
The young herring gull, which would have hatched this summer, picked up the discarded dummy from the floor near a lake in Newquay, Cornwall, right in front of Jayne Bowen and kept it in its mouth for a while before finding something a bit more appetising.
Jayne Bowen, who loves to watch wildlife but only got interested in photography last year, said: “The dummy was just lying on the ground when this curious young bird walked over started probing it. When another gull started to show an interest, the youngster quickly picked it up and walked around with it for ages. It looked hilarious!”
The herring gull is a large, noisy bird found around our coasts as well as inland around rubbish tips, fields, large reservoirs and lakes, especially during winter. Despite its extreme versatility, the bird has suffered a population decline over the past 25 years. The cause is unknown, although a lack of natural nesting habitat and food sources are thought to be contributing factors.
Herring gulls are on the UK red list of threatened species as a result of significant nationwide declines in recent decades.
Ian Hayward, from the RSPB’s wildlife enquiries team, said: “Herring gulls are amazingly clever; champion opportunists and very resourceful. They feed on anything they can find, from fish to rubbish. This young gull probably thought the dummy was a tasty morsel of food and ended up being pretty disappointed by what it was left with.
“Gulls divide public opinion – some love them, some hate them - but despite their seemingly common sound at the seaside or the sight of a flock at the local rubbish tip, numbers of herring gulls have dramatically declined in recent years. These birds are just trying to make a home for themselves and feed their family to survive.”
Jayne continued: “I know not all people like herring gulls, but I love them; they’re such inquisitive characters and I couldn't resist taking this picture.”
Herring gulls prefer to nest on rocky coastline, with cliffs, islets and offshore islands, though a range of other habitats are used including sand dunes, shingle banks and, increasingly, buildings in urban areas. The herring gull is an opportunist feeder, being both predator and scavenger. While primarily a coastal feeder, it readily takes advantage of the often abundant food supplies available indirectly from man, especially waste from the fishing industry and landfill sites.
Adult herring gulls have light grey backs, white under parts, and black wing tips with white 'mirrors'. Their legs are pink, with webbed feet and they have heavy, slightly hooked bills marked with a red spot. Young birds are mottled brown.
Herring gulls are widespread and can easily be seen at virtually any seaside town in the breeding season, and inland all year round, especially at rubbish tips, playing fields and reservoir roosts.
For information and advice about how the RSPB is helping threatened birds like the herring gull, visit www.rspb.org.uk
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