Paired Up

Herring Gulls pairing up in the winter

As early as the end of December, I have seen adult European Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus argenteus) showing interest in each other and showing obvious signs of being a couple. It is known that Herring Gulls already pair up on the wintering grounds far away from the colony and it so happened that I was able to witness this myself on one of my local gull patches.

European Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus argenteus) Green F.AAT (left) together with Green M.ABB (right). Standing next to each other, the size difference between the female on the left and the male on the right can be clearly seen. Leiden, The Netherlands, 4 February 2012.

Both individuals have been ringed in the breeding colony on the isle of Texel in the north of Holland: the female on May 16 2009 and the male also on May 16 but in 2007. They have been paired up since 2009.

Records of paired partners outside the colony for this project are rare, making this quite a unique observation. They were seen as part of a large group of mixed gulls (some 300) consisting of Herring Gulls, Common Gulls and Black-headed Gulls. They sometimes stood close together but also apart from each other and spent their time preening, drinking and resting. There was no obvious interaction between the two of them.

European Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus argenteus) Green F.AAT (left) together with Green M.ABB (right). Leiden, The Netherlands, 4 February 2012.

The male, green M.ABB. Leiden, The Netherlands, 4 Februari 2012.

The female, green F.AAT. Leiden, The Netherlands, 4 Februari 2012.

Life history

In 2007 and 2008, no partner was recorded for M.ABB but it did breed during those years, probably with an un-ringed female.

An un-ringed partner was captured in 2009 and ringed as F.AAT (note that for this project, codes starting with M indicate a male and those starting with F indicate a female. Codes are issued based on biometric measurements). She laid 2 eggs of which 1 was successfully incubated and reared.

In 2010 they had a 3-egg clutch, all of which were incubated.

In 2011 the male was seen only 3 times within the colony, the female was not observed at all during that whole year. The last time F.AAT was observed was on 9 August 2010 on Texel, with the next observation the one by me on 4 February 2012. It’s nice therefore to be able to show that she is still around and together with her partner. Hopefully I will be able to visit the colony again this year and see them both there.

I had already seen M.ABB a few times in August and September of 2011. It stayed in the Leiden area to finish its primary moult. For images, see this Flickr collection.

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