Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Great Black-backed Gull

A lot of people say to me "Amateurnithologist, huh? Maybe you should change your name since you're such a bird expert now!" Then they usually take my lunch and shove me into a locker, because the world is filled with mean bullies. On the other hand though, I can see the point they're trying to make. I have gotten better at this birding thing. I mean, probably, right? I'm correctly identifying more birds in the field, people are asking me bird related questions in my real life, and I recently got accepted into an awesome bird picture calendar. But something still nags at me, keeping me from saying I'm truly a moderately-well-versed-nithologist. If I want to figure out if I've really gotten better, I'll need a rematch with my old foe, seagulls. For a brief perusal of my embarrassing history with seagulls, click here, here, and definitely here. Ok, that was demoralizing, but let's give it a try~

Great Black-backed Gull
Bird Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
Member of the Gull Family
★Largest Gull
§A Flotilla of Gulls§

~real bird quote~
"While cruising along the bleak and barren coasts of southern Labrador I learned to know and admire this magnificent gull, as we saw it sailing on its powerful wings high above the desolate crags and rocky islets of that forbidding shore, its chosen summer home. Its resemblance to the bald eagle was striking, as it soared aloft and wheeled in great circles, showing its broad black back and wings in sharp contrast with its snow-white head and tail, glistening in the sunlight. It surely seemed to be a king among the gulls, a merciless tyrant over its fellows, the largest and strongest of its tribe. No weaker gull dared to intrude upon its feudal domain; the islet it had chosen for its home was deserted and shunned by other less aggressive waterfowl, for no other nest was safe about the castle of this robber baron, only the eider duck being strong enough to defend its young."
-Arthur Cleveland Bent, Life Histories of North American Gulls and Terns, 1921

~true bird fact~ It's true, what Arthur Bent said up there. The Great Black-backed is a tough bird. Here is a *not great* image I captured of him chasing away the notoriously chicken Bald Eagle. This was a behavior I observed many times on my birding trips. This bird fears nothing, is huge (5 foot wingspan), and has been known to swallow up smaller gulls and puffins (no!) in one bite. Well, he fears nothing except the most deadly animal of all (turns out its man). In the 1800's Black-backed gull feathers were considered extremely fashionable, and so the gull was hunted to the point of serious population depletion. After the feather trade ended in the 1900's, the population recovered, thanks in large part to the expansion of garbage dumps that gulls could easily feed at.

Exactly as tough as everyone thinks he is
Had a bad childhood. Doesn't know any other way to do things
Has a menacing calm to him
Just a real bad dude with real bad 'tude overall
Makes an example of those who get in his way

 /!\ Trigger Warning: Dead Bird /!\

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