Birds of Seabrook Island



  Lesser Black-backed Gull



Species Acct.
NW Warblers


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  Order Charadriiformes - Plovers, Sandpipers, Gulls, Terns, Auks
   Family Laridae - Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers
      Subfamily Larinae - Gulls

  Charadriiforms are a diverse group of shore and aquatic or wading or terrestrial birds. They include the sandgrouse, shore birds, gulls and terns, and alcids. The majority breed in the Northern Hemisphere.
   The Tree of Life includes shorebirds with the Ciconiiformes.
Gulls and Terns are found along seacoasts and most inland bodies of water around the world.
Gulls have three webbed toes and their toes are not hooked. The tail is rarely forked. The upper margin of the bill is curved and the maxilla overhangs the mandible at the tip. There is no cere. They are gregarious and generally have less spectacular migrations than shorebirds
White-headed Gulls have white heads in the breeding plumage.
Speciation in a polytypic species
Ernst Mayr
  Lesser Black-backed Gull, Larus fuscus
   Cornell   USGS     Wiki     ToL     EoL
        WINTER - Rare / Accidental
            BEACH, INLET
   The Lesser Black-backed Gull is a vagrant from Europe/Africa that has increased in numbers on our coast in recent years.
   Overall, the species is slender with long and narrow wings - similar to a Laughing Gull. The head is small and rounded and the bill is short and thin. Adults are slightly smaller than a Herring Gull but larger the the Ring-billed Gull. Adults have dark gray (Britain/ Iceland birds) or black (Denmark birds) wings and mantle and a light but streaked head. The bill is yellow with a red spot near the tip on the lower mandible. The legs are yellow in most birds by their third year.
   First winter birds have dark wings and a broad, dark tail-band. The breast is streaked and the bill is thin and black. By the second winter, the mantle is gray. The base of the lower mandible is pale. By the third year, the mantle and wings are dark (gray or black) and the bill is yellow with a broad sub-terminal band.
   Look for a smaller gull with a dark back and try to get a good look... Most of the birds on the East coast are from the grayer Britain/Iceland populations.  
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull.
Den Helder, Netherlands
  RANGE: European species, increasing as a winter visitor to North America as the Iceland population grows.
  BREEDING: Not known to nest in North America. Monogamous. First breeds at 4 years. Nests in colonies. They breed on tundra, along sandy or rocky coasts, and on islands in lakes and larger rivers. The nest site is on the ground. Both sexes build a mound of seaweed, grasses, and debris with a shallow depression at the top which is lined with finer material. They lay 3 (1-4) eggs which both sexes incubate for 24-27 days. Development is semiprecocial. Both parents feed the young. Chicks leave the nest after a few days but remain nearby. They are able to fly at 30-40 days.
  DIET: Omnivorous - fish, mollusks, crustaceans, fish, marine worms, small birds, eggs, rodents, betties, seaweeds, etc. Also scavenge around garbage dumps. They may steal food from other birds.
  VOICE: The Lesser Black-backed Gull's voice is guttural, deeper and more nasal than the Herring Gull but not as harsh as the Great Black- Backed Gull. The long call begins with a long, low note, the rapid, short, rising notes (4/sec).
   Checklists -
      Seabrook. Kiawah - occassional fall through spring.
      Coastal - rare winter visitor. Hilton Head - rare winter visitor. Huntington Beach - exceptional August, October - February.
   CBC: Hilton Head 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0;
            McClellanville 0, 0, 0, 0, nc, 1, 1, 1; Winyah Bay x, x, 2, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0; Litchfield/Pawley's 0, 2, 0, 0, 0, 0, CW, 0.
   P&G: Casual on coast, 12 August - 18 March.
   M&P: Now classified as a rare winter visitor.
   Avendex: 32 records. All months except June - July.
   Potter: Regular but uncommon winter visitor south to Huntington Beach State Park and rarely as far south as Otter Island in Colleton Co. Expected from late August to April. Some summer stragglers have been seen but there is no evidence of breeding in the Carolinas.
  ●  Rare. I have not seen this bird on Seabrook. However, it is now on the Kiawah list and since it may well become more common it should be kept in mind when examining gulls here. It gives you a good reason to scope every gull in a group. Look for yellow legs (adults only)...
Speciation in a polytypic species, Larus argentatus
    The Herring Gull is a polytypic species (a superspecies or species cluster with many related populations that behave as species - they rarely interbreed). This diagram shows the circumpolar distribution of these subspecies and species. The terminal overlap of this distribution is found in the British Isles, northern Europe and Finnoscandinavia where L. argentatus (above left) and L. fuscus (above right) live together with overlapping ranges and do not interbreed. This complex is often referred to as a "ring species."

Gull populations©Ernst Mayr, MCZ Harvard

Ranges shown include:
in North America
   Larus smithonianus - B1 - American Herring
      Gull - not a separate species from L.

   to the south in the west
      L. californicus - C - California Gull
   to the north
      L. thayeri - D1 - Thayer's Gull
      L. leucopterus = L. glaucoides - D2 - Iceland
         Gull in Asia
   L. vegae - A - East Siberian Gull (probably =
   L. kamtschatschensis - Kamchatka Gull)
two stocks from this
   to the south
      L. mongolicus - F1 - Mongolian Gull
      L. cachinnans - F2 - Yellow-legged Gull
      L. michahellis - F3 - Yellow-legged Gull
      L. atlantis - F4 - Yellow-legged Gull
   and to the north
      L. heuglini - E1 - Heuglin's Gull
      L. antelius - E2 - Heuglin's Gull
      L. fuscus - E-3 - Lesser Black-backed Gull
      L. graellsi - E4 - Lesser Black-backed Gull
and tied to North American populations
   L. argentatus - B2 - Herring Gull
   L. omissus  B3 - Yellow-legged Gull
(A number of these lines are now regarded as subspecies - see Clements, 2006 or check on the Internet.)
    Ref.: Liebers, D, P. de Knijff, and A. J. Helbig. 203. The Herring Gull complex is not a ring species. Proc. Roy Soc. B 271: 893-901. The classic series of populations from the Herring Gull through the Lesser Black-backed Gull is complicated by other populations belonging to the same superspecies complex - the Yellow-legged Gull, Larus michahellis; Glaucous Gull, L. hyperboreus; and Caspian Gull, L. cachinnans From Mayr, E. 1942. Systematics and the Origin of Species. Columbia University Press, NY. This is Ernst's primary work establishing the biological species. I was one of his graduate students in the 60s. Ernst lived to be 100 - he published a book or paper every month of his life from the time he was 20 until he died. He was truly a seminal figure in establishing our modern evolutionary synthesis.
Ernst Mayr
    Ernst Mayr Professor Ernst Mayr and Carl Helms, one of his 17 Harvard PhD students at his Centenary May 10, 2004. Ernst was 99 when this picture was taken.  
       Ernst died February 3, 2005, in Bedford, Massachusetts. His obituary from Harvard Magazine May-June 2005, p 80x, follows:
       ERNST MAYR, S.D. '80, Agassiz professor of zoology emeritus and a giant in the field of evolutionary biology, died February 3 in Bedford, Mass. Considered by many to be one of the greatest scientists of all time, he was a central figure in the development of the neo-Darwinist evolutionary synthesis - a major intellectual achievement of the twentieth century - and played a key role in propelling the origin of species diversity to the center of contemporary biological debate; he pioneered the now accepted definition of a biological species as an interbreeding population that cannot breed with other groups; and worked to win acceptance of biology as a "true" science, alongside physics, astronomy, and chemistry. He was a curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in the 1930s and '40s and served on the Harvard faculty from 1953 to 1975. From 1961 to 1970 he was the director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. He was the author or coauthor of more than 20 books, including two seminal texts, Animal Species and Evolution and The Growth of Biological Thought. A birder from boyhood, he discovered 26 bird species and 410 subspecies. Among his many honors were the Balzan Prize, in 1963, the National Medal of Science, in 1970, the International Prize for Biology, in 1994, and the Crawford Prize, in 1999. He leaves two daughters, Christa Menzel and Susanne Harrison; his wife, Margarete (Simon), died in 1990.
    Banner - Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult and first year birds). Texel, Netherlands.

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