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SCCF: January shorebird observations included gulls

By SCCF - | Feb 3, 2021

SCCF Bonaparte’s gulls

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation reported that its January monthly shorebird surveys of Sanibel and Captiva’s gulf beaches yielded a couple of interesting surprises.

One of the most exciting finds on Sanibel were Bonaparte’s gulls, which are not like other gulls. These small pink-legged gulls can be seen in small numbers around the islands during the winter months. They nest near water in forests in northern Canada and eat insects during the breeding season. Though they sometimes nest on the ground, they also nest in trees, which is unusual among gulls. In the winter, they can be found along the coast and on lakes and rivers. Small and agile, they employ a variety of foraging techniques, sometimes acting more like a tern than a gull.

“If you are walking along the water’s edge and see gulls foraging in the surf close to shore, they could be Bonaparte’s gulls,” SCCF Coastal Wildlife Manager Audrey Albrecht said.

Another interesting find was an adult herring gull, identifiable by its pale gray back, pink legs and massive stature in comparison to the far more common laughing gulls and royal terns.

“Though herring gulls are not uncommon, we typically see more juveniles than adults,” Albrecht said.

SCCF Adult herring gull with laughing gulls and royal terns.

In January, a total of 1,403 individuals of 28 different species were observed. There were lower numbers of some shorebird species compared with years past, but it may be explained by the presence of large flocks of shorebirds foraging recently on the exposed mudflats in San Carlos Bay.