Pair-bonding behavior between adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and 2nd-calendar year Herring Gull

I came across this peculiar scene today of an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus and a second-calendar year European Herring Gull Larus argentatus displaying pair-bonding behavior (walking parallel to each other, mew-calling and choking).

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and a second-calendar year European Herring Gull displaying pair-bonding behavior. Katwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands, 9 August 2013.

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and a second-calendar year European Herring Gull displaying pair-bonding behavior. Katwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands, 9 August 2013.

This is strange because not only is the Herring Gull way too young to be pairing up with a mate and to be displaying this type of behavior, but they are not even the same species (although interbreeding does occur).

It will be difficult to explain what is going on here without much speculation.

From the adult’s perspective, I wonder what its incentive is? Is it a case of mistaken identity? It is not until a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull comes begging that it seems to realize its error and immediately starts displaying aggressive behavior towards the Herring Gull by long-calling and charging at it.

From the sub-adult’s perspective: what is it trying to get out of it? I was very surprised to see a gull of this age behave and react towards an adult this way and I wouldn’t have thought that it had this type of behavior in its repertoire.

Any thoughts and references to similar observations are welcome.

More blog posts about the choking behavior

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One thought on “Pair-bonding behavior between adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and 2nd-calendar year Herring Gull

  1. Humans have supposedly evolved far enough to know well enough not to do things like this (i.e. sexual behaviour towards children and members of different species) – but some aberrant humans still go ahead and do it anyway.

    I’m not too surprised that gulls are capable of it too.

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