Belfast’s urban gulls: an assessment of breeding populations, breeding season movements and winter population
Author(s): Booth Jones, K., Thaxter, C., Clewley, G., Wolsey, S., Calbrade, N., Atkinson, P., Calladine, J. & Burton, N.
Published: May 2022 Issue No.: 734
Publisher: British Trust for Ornithology Pages: 52pp
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In Northern Ireland, urban gull populations have previously been poorly studied. The last count of urban gulls in Northern Ireland was during the last seabird census, Seabird 2000. An up-to-date estimate is therefore overdue, particularly as the most recent national census, Seabirds Count, is currently underway. In addition to the lack of knowledge of urban population sizes, there have been no previous studies of the movements and space use of urban nesting gulls in Northern Ireland, despite some tracking work on gulls nesting at natural, coastal sites. Outside the breeding season, Belfast Lough is used by wintering gulls, but numbers of these have not been assessed in recent times.
This project brings together a number of elements targeted at addressing knowledge gaps for the urban population of gulls in Northern Ireland, chiefly focusing on Belfast city centre. Firstly, the numbers of breeding gulls in Belfast city centre are estimated using vantage point surveys, contributing to the latest national census and providing data for organisations wishing to reduce human-gull conflict. Secondly, the latest tracking technology was used to investigate how urban-nesting Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls use the urban environment of Belfast, complementing the population monitoring and existing tracking data from Herring Gulls breeding in a nearby coastal colony on Big Copeland Island. Thirdly, the wintering gull population using the shoreline of Belfast Lough was quantified, as congregations of gulls in the lough may interact with human activities in the lough.
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