Red-billed gull

Status: Nationally Vulnerable

redbill_fly

The commonest gull in New Zealand, recently the numbers of red-billed gull have markedly declined. Mostly seen on coastal margins including braided river hapua (coastal lagoons) and estuaries, they breed in colonies. They are sometimes seen inland along braided river margins.

Description

The red-billed gull (Larus novaehollandiae) is also known as the silver gull, tarāpunga, tarapunga (Māori), mackerel gull, Jackie (Chathams), akiaki, seagull, and redbilled gull. A medium-sized gull, it’s larger than the black-billed gull, measuring 37cm and weighing 240-320grams. Juveniles are commonly confused with black-billed gulls, as the colouring and size is similar.

It is genetically different from red-billed ‘seagulls’ found elsewhere in the world, including SE Australia. 

A white gull with grey wings, the beaks, feet, and eyelids are bright red-orange in mature adults. The main flight feathers are black with white tips. Juveniles have brown patches on their wings and back, and darker brown legs, bill, and iris. 

Red-billed gull with chick
Red-billed gull with chick

Conservation efforts

While numbers are declining, no species-specific conservation projects are currently underway.

  • National Red-billed Gull Survey 2014-2016: ‘Among the many factors potentially adversely influencing the red-billed gull population, predation and disturbance at breeding colonies, although prevalent, may be less important than changes in food availability offshore during the breeding season.
  • Predator control on the Otago Peninsular resulted in a 6-10% increase in a population that had declined by almost 51% nationwide, from 1983-1994.