Larus scopulinus (*)
The Red-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus scopulinus), once also known as the Mackerel Gull, is a native of New Zealand, being found throughout the country and on outlying islands including the Chatham Islands and Sub-antarctic islands.The Māori name of this species is Tarapunga or Akiaki. Its vernacular name is sometimes also used for the Dolphin Gull, a somewhat similar-looking but unrelated species. As is the case with many gulls, the Red-billed Gull has traditionally been placed in the genus Larus.
It is the smallest gull commonly seen in New Zealand; a recent estimate of the population puts it at half a million birds in the country. Until recently it was regarded as a subspecies of the Silver Gull Larus novaehollandiae found in Australia, and the two species are very similar in appearance. However the most recent research suggests that they are not particularly closely related.
They nest from October to December in colonies on the coast, either on islands or rocky headlands, cliffs and beaches. The birds form pair bonds which endure across seasons, but there is a certain amount of extra-pair copulation. Courtship feeding is an important part of the preparation for mating. Nests are well formed and may be constructed of seaweed, grasses, leaves and ice plants. Generally two to three eggs are laid, their colour ranges from brown to grey with light and dark brown spots all over.
1. ^ BirdLife International (2004). Larus scopulinus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
* Mills, J. A. (1994). Extra-pair copulations in the Red-Billed Gull: Females with high-quality, attentive males resist. Behaviour, 128, 41-64.
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