Black-tailed gull

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Black-tailed gull
Laridae in Beijing Zoo.JPG
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae
Genus: Larus
Species: L. crassirostris
Binomial name
Larus crassirostris
Vieillot, 1818, Nagasaki, Japan

The black-tailed gull (Larus crassirostris) is a medium-sized (46 cm) gull, with a wingspan of 126–128 cm. The bird is resident in East Asia, including China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. It is a vagrant to Alaska and northeastern North America.

It has yellow legs and a red and black spot at the end of the bill. This gull takes four years to reach full adult plumage. As the name suggests, it has a black tail. The bird has a cat-like call, giving it its Japanese name — umineko, "sea cat", and Korean name — gwaeng-yi gull, which means "cat" gull. In Hachinohe they are one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan.

The black-tailed gull feeds mainly on small fish, molluscs, crustaceans scraps and carrion. It often follows ships and commercial fishing fleets. It does steal food from other seabirds.

It is a colonial nester, with colonies forming in mid-April. 2–3 eggs are laid by early June. Incubation lasts approximately 24 days.

An enormous gathering of black-tailed gulls can be found at the Kabushima Shrine at Hachinohe, Aomori, Japan. This Shinto shrine was raised by fishermen in 1269 (though it has been rebuilt several times since) to honour the black-tailed gull, which is seen as a messenger of the goddess of the fishery. For over 700 years, the species has enjoyed reverence, feeding and protection from the local population. As a result, every summer, over 40,000 seagulls nest and raise their young in the grounds of the shrine and the surrounding island, which has been designated a National Natural Treasure by the government of Japan. The seagulls are very tame and are a popular local tourist attraction.

A rare visitor to the United States, a black-tailed gull was spotted from Burlington, Vermont, in October 2005. Pictures from that sighting can be seen here

Images showing variations in plumage[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]