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Glaucous gull (Larus hyperboreus)

The Glau­cous gull is by far the lar­gest of the com­mon gulls that breed regu­lar­ly on Spits­ber­gen. It is about as big as the gre­at black-backed gull, which is rare in Sval­bard.

Glaucous gull, Büdelfjellet

Glau­cous gull, Büdelf­jel­let (Bar­entsøya)

Descrip­ti­on: The Glau­cous gull is by far the lar­gest of the com­mon gulls of Spits­ber­gen (65-78 cm, 1.3-2.2 kg in weight). It is not pos­si­ble to dis­tin­guish the sexes by eye. The plu­mage is lar­ge­ly white, except for the light-grey upper wings. The size, and the absence of black wing­tips, makes it easy to dis­tin­guish from Kit­ti­wa­kes.

Dis­tri­bu­ti­on / Migra­ti­ons: Glau­cous gulls breed in all parts of the high Arc­tic and spend the win­ter in the open sea not too far from the bree­ding are­as, or occa­sio­nal­ly in coas­tal waters. They breed ever­y­whe­re in Sval­bard in sea­b­ird colo­nies.

Bio­lo­gy: In Sval­bard, whe­re rodents are absent, the Glau­cous gull occu­p­ies the role of bird of prey. It takes almost anything it can swal­low: Fish, mus­sels, crustace­ans, eggs, chicks and even adult Kit­ti­wa­kes, Brünich’s guil­lemots and Litt­le auks. It likes to breed in colo­nies of tho­se spe­ci­es, much to their dis­gust, but often without any other bree­ding Glau­cous gulls in the same area, unless food avai­la­bi­li­ty is very good. Glau­cous gulls build a nest of grass, mos­ses and sea­weed, usual­ly in an ele­va­ted posi­ti­on. Both par­ents will incu­ba­te the two or three eggs for four weeks. For bree­ding, Glau­cous gulls often return to the place whe­re they were born. Once they have found a sui­ta­ble nes­ting site, they will keep using it for several sea­sons.

Mis­cel­la­ne­ous: The­re are several thousand bree­ding pairs in Sval­bard, alt­hough exact counts are lacking. It is belie­ved cur­r­ent­ly that the popu­la­ti­on is decli­ning slight­ly. Being at the top of the food chain, Glau­cous gulls accu­mu­la­te high con­cen­tra­ti­ons of envi­ron­men­tal toxins in their fat tis­sue and liver.

Glaucous gull, Alkefjellet

Glau­cous gull, Alkef­jel­let

Glaucous gull, Ærfuglvika

Glau­cous gull, Ærfuglvi­ka

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last modification: 2019-02-09 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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