Vieillot, 1818, Nagasaki
The black-tailed gull is medium-sized (46 cm), with a wingspan of 126–128 cm. It has yellow legs and a red and black spot at the end of the bill. Males and females have identical plumage and features, although males are larger in size than females. 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.
Distribution and habitat
An enormous gathering of black-tailed gulls can be found at the Kabushima at Hachinohe, Aomori, Japan. A Shinto shrine was raised by fishermen in 1269 (though it has been rebuilt several times since) at which the black-tailed gull, 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 black-tailed gulls nest and raise their young in the grounds of the shrine and the surrounding island, which has been designated a National Natural Monument by the government of Japan. The gulls are very tame and are a popular local tourist attraction.
In North America
The black-tailed gull feeds mainly on small fish, molluscs, crustaceans scraps and carrion. It often follows ships and commercial fishing fleets. It also steals 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.
Black-tailed Gull in Tokyo Bay
Black-tailed Gull in Hachinohe, Aomori
Black-tailed Gulls at entrance to Kabushima Shrine
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- Boles, Walter (2009). Josep del Hoyo; Andrew Elliott; David A. Christie, eds. Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 3. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.
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