Dutch Black-headed Gull sighted in Gran Canaria, Spain

An amazing sighting was sent in to us this week from the island of Gran Canaria, Spain, of a Black-headed Gull born this year in the Zoetermeer colony in The Netherlands. This means that it has traveled an amazing distance of some 3100 kilometers (yes, that’s 3 thousand 100 kilometers)!

The observation was done by Xabier Remirez, who kindly gave permission to publish the photos he took:

First-calendar year Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) on the isle of Gran Canaria, Spain. 6 December 2012.

First-calendar year Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) on the isle of Gran Canaria, Spain. 6 December 2012.

The gull traveled an amazing distance of some 3000 kilometers to get from The Netherlands to the isle of Gran Canaria.

The gull traveled an amazing distance of some 3000 kilometers to get from The Netherlands to the isle of Gran Canaria.

The islet where the gull was seen, a place called Bocabarranco, near the town of Telde in the North-Eastern coast of Gran Canaria. Copyright Xabier Remirez.

The islet where the gull was seen, a place called Bocabarranco, near the town of Telde in the North-Eastern coast of Gran Canaria. Copyright Xabier Remirez.

Colour-ringed

This individual was ringed in May 2012 as a nestling and fitted with a white color ring on the left leg with code E5YS (and a metal ring on the right leg) as part of a project to track the survival rate of Black-headed Gulls by Dutch ringer Frank Majoor.

Needless to say that this observation is a new record for this project, beating the old record of southern Spain/Portugal by 1000 kilometers.

First observation

Interestingly, this is the first observation of this gull after it was ringed, even though rings are read on a regular basis in the colony during the breeding season by myself and fellow bird watcher and ringer Benny M.

Gran Canaria as a wintering location

I was very surprised to hear that Black-headed Gulls were even present at Gran Canaria. For some reason I never expected them to fly further than the coast of Spain and Portugal. After some searching on the internet, migration patterns of Black-headed Gulls further south to Morocco are actually well documented, for instance by Henning Heldbjerg in his publication Migration and survival of Black-headed Gulls Larus ridibundus ringed as chicks in Denmark (PDF link).

In my correspondence with Xabier he mentions that Black-headed Gulls are regular but scarce winter visitors at Gran Canaria and that they usually have less than 100 birds wintering there.

He also mentioned that this is only his second sighting of a ringed Black-headed Gull at Gran Canaria, the first one being from mainland Spain.

Permanent wintering location?

So what will E5YS do over the coming years? Will it keep using Gran Canaria as a wintering location? When will it depart and when will it arrive back in the colony? Will it be one of the last ones to arrive and one of the first ones to leave, knowing that it has got such a large distance to cover?

It will certainly be an individual that we will keep track off with much interest and we are looking forward to seeing E5YS back in the colony (but that probably won’t be until 2014).

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