It is nearing the end of summer, and for most birds the breeding season is over for another year. For the Herring Gulls though, their work isn’t over just yet. The gulls begin nesting from late May onward and usually lay a clutch of around 3 eggs.
Herring gull eggs in the nest (these were abandoned when this photograph was taken)
Chicks remain in the nest for up to 40-50 days with one parent remaining with them on guard at all times, whilst the other collects food.
Down on the mud flat several herring gull chicks have now fledged and are accompanying their parents in their search for food.
Herring gull chick after fledging
After fledging, the chicks will remain with their parents for some weeks, following them with persistent whistling calls and snapping at their beaks to beg for food, even though they are quite capable of flight, and finding food for themselves by this stage of life.
Feed me mum!
Passing food to the chick
Waiting for a tasty morsel
The chicks’ begging calls are often uttered in a wing down, head raised posture as shown below.
At this age the chicks are nearly as large as the adults
The adults have a tough job on their hands satisfying their chicks and their enormous appetites, and this can be very draining on a bird’s reserves making them more susceptible to illness. This particular adult (presumably mum) seems to have a case of bird mites, seen crawling through the feathers around her eye.
Eventually the parents will abandon their young altogether, leaving them to fend for themselves. At this point juvenile gulls will often form large flocks, sticking together for safety.
Their defined grey and white adult plumage, and yellow beak won’t begin to appear until the bird is 2 – 3 years old, and gulls are not fully mature and ready to breed themselves until they reach 4 years of age.
— All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2017 © http://www.greyfeatherphotography.com
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