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Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus

Sea Gulls are among the best known birds in the countries adjacent to the North Sea. Most species are confined to the coastal areas but the Black-headed Gull lives all over Europe. From time to time it visists our garden. On the lawn it behaves like a Blackbird: it walks about quickly, hoping for some Earth Worms to surface. Young Black-headed Gulls are without the black cap and so are adults in winter.

The gulls make up a rather large family of seabirds. You can find them all over the seas and oceans of the world. There are only a few gulls that live all over the European continent and this is the most common one. Actually it's very dependent on human activity: hundreds of these birds wait at garbage dumps for the trucks to arrive. Many follow the farmers when they plough or manure their land. But they also go through meadows behaving rather like Rooks. The name in Dutch means Cook Gull, but they are also called Kapmeeuw, meaning Cap Gull.

With some birds, and especially with gulls, the young can be told apart from the adults for a very long time. The young of the Great Black-backed Gull for instance differ from their parents for five years! With Black-headed Gulls the difference can only be seen during the first winter: the young still have brown feathers in their grey back and black tail and their feet and beaks are reddish brown, while the adults have feet and beaks that are vividly red.

This bird belongs to the family of Gulls (Larinae). It has been an irregular visitor to our garden and can be seen in Holland all year round. The bird is 15" and weighs 260 grams. It lives in coasts, waste dumps, meadows and lakes mostly. It eats anything. The sexes do not differ from one another. The nest is made in April or May in the ground. The birds produces three eggs at a time on which it breeds for 23 days. It takes the young a long time to grow up: they remain in the nest for some 40 days!

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