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Great Black-backed Gull, North Atlantic Predator

These birds were almost wiped out by people but are thriving today
© Leon van der Noll View Large

Great Black-backed Gulls have a reputation as serious predators of other birds. During the nesting season, they’ll prey on eggs and nestlings of other seabirds. They’ll also hunt adult seabirds including puffins and grebes, as well as songbirds as big as a grackle.

Full Transcript



Great Black-backed Gull: Gull as Predator

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

A massive bird soars along the New England coastline, above nesting islands and cliffs inhabited by puffins and other seabirds. This bird’s broad, black wings measure more than five feet across, in bold contrast with its white head and tail. Its beak is long and thick.

A Bald Eagle might come to mind. But this is no eagle. It’s a Great Black-backed Gull, the world’s largest gull.

[Great Black-backed Gull pair calls,, 0.37-.39]

Great Black-backed Gulls can be found on both sides of the North Atlantic. And their diet — like that of other large gulls — includes fish, squid and winter visits to landfills.

But it’s their reputation as serious predators of other birds that really sets this huge gull apart. During the nesting season, Great Black-backed Gulls prey on eggs and nestlings of other seabirds. They’ll also hunt adult seabirds, like puffins and grebes, and songbirds as big as a grackle.

[Great Black-backed Gull call,, 0.11-.14]

Just over a century ago, these birds were nearly wiped out by plume hunters. The gull that soars like an eagle and snacks on other birds had itself all but disappeared into ladies’ hats. But today, thanks to people speaking out, these gulls are thriving.

[Great Black-backed Gull pair calls,, 0.37-.39]

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.


Producer: John Kessler

Managing Producer: Jason Saul

Editor: Ashley Ahearn

Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone

Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill

Narrator: Michael Stein

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by Dolly Minis and Bob McGuire.

BirdNote’s theme composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2019 Tune In to   June 2019
ID# GBBG-01-2019-06-26   GBBG-01