Tuesday 8 May 2012

Laridae vs Columbidae - guess who won.

We took a trip out yesterday to Chester and the North Wales coast. Having never visited Chester before I was looking forward to seeing the famous medieval Rows and visit the cathedral. The Rows were fascinating, the cathedral we didn't get to see as it cost 6 quid to get in if you weren't a worshipper; as we're not religious we departed.

What we did get to see was slightly less aesthetically pleasing to the eye but equally fascinating. In a nearby area hard to the city walls called the Kaleyards we spotted a Lesser Black-backed Gull attacking and eating a feral pigeon; avian dinosaur predation in an urban centre.

Feral pigeons seek respite from the weather in the lee of the city walls.
The large stones in the bottom of the image are Roman.

This area (named as the spot was where monks grew vegetables in days of yore) has an impressive coop and the area is home a large number of feral pigeons (and the odd duck, not in shot) all of whom use the city walls as shelter from the elements. When we arrived the gull had already disabled the pigeon, and whether it had attacked a healthy bird or picked on an injured or weak one we did't see.

Gull attacking still-alive pigeon.

The pigeon was still very much alive however, and the gull was pecking towards the rear of the bird. After several minutes the unfortunate pigeon gave up the ghost and the gull continued to feed, before a parking motorist scared it off. It waited a while on a nearby lamppost for a while, then flew out of sight and then returned after a few minutes and continued to feed. Lesser Black-Backed gulls have been noted as predators, and intraspecific predation in colonies of the species have been recorded by Davis et al.

The prey had been dragged a few metres away by now, and had expired.

It was a gully day. We saw Herring gulls nesting on the roof of the railway bridge, Herring gulls nesting in a window seat in a tower at Conwy castle and lotsa gulls in Llandudno, as you would expect. Here's some pics for all admirers of the Laridae out there.

Room with a view: a brooding Herring Gull at the magnificent Conwy Castle.

Adult Herring Gull on the pier at Llandudno. Ever the opportunists, these gulls are
quite bold when scavenging from the food discarded by humans.
Immature Herring Gull, also at Llandudno and keeping a close eye on the activities
of the anglers fishing of the end of the pier.

J.W.F. Davis, E.K. Dunn (1976). Intraspecific predation in Lesser Black-Backed Gulls Larus fuscus. International Journal of Avian Science 118, 65-77.

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