Great Black-Backed Gull
Distribution Britain 486 (-4.4%) Ireland 137 (-28.3%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 19,000 Ireland 4,500
European status: 105,000 (22% in Britain and Ireland =2)
British population trend: probably stable (+7% BBS)
How likely are you to record it? 212 squares (4.7%) Ranked 86 [57=]
This big and impressive species was much persecuted both as a predator and also for trophies and was in a parlous state by about 1875 when its fortunes started to improve. Better legal protection was the spur and they started to spread around the rocky coasts with a handful breeding inland. Some are colonial, and they mainly feed on fish and crustaceans but there are also solitary pairs that specialise on predating other seabirds. In Ireland the increase seems to have slowed or stopped in the North 30 years ago but it continued elsewhere. In Scotland the overall increase has probably been reversed by the sharp declines in Shetland and Orkney probably attributable to harassment or competition from the increasing Great Skuas about half the national total nested on these islands in 1969-70. Prospects good except where there are Bonxies!
Whilde, A., Cotton, D.C.F. & Sheppard, J.R. 1993 Irish Birds: 5, 67-72.
The following Bird On! sketch is available:
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead