Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

The most evocative bird call I know is the wonderful 'laughing' call of the Herring Gull. As a youngster, like all kids I expect, I loved going to the seaside and when I heard this call from the chimney tops at Ryde on the Isle of Wight I knew we were there!

The Herring Gull is, perhaps, a much maligned bird because it has developed a taste for human rubbish. During the autumn and winter upwards of 1,000 fly over us (near Wareham) every morning on their way to the landfill sites on the Bere Regis road and then, every evening, they make their way back to Poole Harbour to roost. Sometimes, when disturbed, they all rise into the sky in a towering cloud of birds all 'mewing' anxiously to each other.

In spring, the birds spread out along our coastline, especially on the cliffs, to nest and our daily processions declines in numbers for a while. They also tend to see a house top as a cliff and readily nest up against chimney stacks which makes them unpopular with the house owners.

They are a common sight in Dorset, much bigger than the Black Headed Gull with yellow legs and bill, and the bill has a red patch on the underside, more noticeable in the breeding season.

People find it hard to believe that Herring Gull numbers are falling, just as with many other sea birds, and this thought to be linked to the declining health of our seas.

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