Gull chicks

After transects early in June suggested we had about 3,000 gull nest with eggs hatching or newly hatched, it was very disappointing to return to ring the chicks last weekend only to find that, for the 6th year in a row, the chicks were almost all gone or dead.

But why? Previous years have assumed starvation, as adults have been seen eating dead chicks. However, adult gulls will eat a dead chick regardless of what it died of; might there be a disease in the colony? Poison? A predator we’ve not spotted?

So I took a couple of gulls to the government vet lab, where they were a lot more interested than I was expecting, as a mass wild bird mortality is important enough to be investigated by the lab free of charge.

The scientist carried out an autopsy, and asked me to bring a lot more dead birds for analysis. This morning, he called and reported that the two birds I’d brought had died from predation; one had been bitten and the other badly pecked. But not eaten or damaged further which is strange. And neither chick was starved, they’d both been well fed in the preceding day.

It is really odd. The government scientist wants to come out with me as soon as possible and see the site for himself. I am very keen to find out what is going on!

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