On Saturday, a member of the public brought us a very small gull chick, still fluffy and tiny, so not more than a day old. It is very difficult to know what to do, they had phoned the RSPCA and not been happy with the response, so left it with me (this is the 4th gull I’ve been given over the past fortnight). All I can do here is call the RSPCA, but as I have plenty of time and energy I thought I’d give hand rearing it a go instead.
I left it in the shoebox it had been brought in, but it was soon desperately trying to escape. I put it into a paper-lined fish crate, with a hot water bottle, covered half the box with a towel and left in a dark room. I found some good resources online that suggested what to feed it, so hand fed tuna. I was also pleased to see it attempt to feed itself from dropped pieces, as well as drink freely from a shallow dish of water.
However, it peeped and peeped and peeped! Resources from a wildlife rehab website I found suggested that they don’t beg for food, but instead just beg whenever they think an adult is nearby. It was very persistent.
I weigh it twice a day, it was 46g when it arrived, by the end of the first day it weighed 53g.
The next day one of our volunteers brought me some freshly caught and filleted whitefish. I snipped it into tiny strips, and the chick happily gobbled all of these up, and even stopped peeping! Definitely preferred it to the tuna.
By teatime of the second day, the chick was up to a whopping 70g!
The reserve I live on and manage was at the forefront of gull research in the 1940s to the 1970s, with a Dr Nikko Tinbergen writing his piece “The Herring Gull’s World” on the reserve, which at the time had the biggest Herring & lesser black-backed gull colony in the British Isles. Although the work has some flaws, and his later pursuits were questionable, it remains one of the great works of biology and animal behaviour research. From this and other research he completed with along with Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1973 “for discoveries concerning organization and elicitation of individual and social behaviour patterns”