A tale of two gulls

LAST UPDATED: 6 Apr, 2009 @ 16:41
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A tale of two gulls

Almería protects rare bird while Cádiz launches gull cull following invasion

IT could hardly be any different for two species of sea faring birds in Andalucía.

While moves are underway to offer greater protection to the rare slender-billed gull in El Ejido, Almería, council officials in Cádiz have launched a war against its more ubiquitous cousin, the yellow-legged seagull.

This is after locals complained of Hitchcock-like attacks by vast numbers of the bird in markets and on the beaches of the port city.

There have also been reports of the gulls swooping down on children to steal food from their hands while deadly attacks on other bird species have also been recorded.

“The common yellow-legged seagull is a pest. It is a predator, it attacks indigenous birds like storks and avocets while destroying the nests of other species. It carries germs, damages vegetation. It is opportunistic and it travels in vast flocks. These are the arguments to justify this war against the gaviota patiamarilla,” said a spokesman for Cádiz City Hall.

To combat the growing population of the bird in Bay of Cádiz and Gibraltar – which are estimated to number tens of thousands – experts have vowed a battle to the end. And they are sure there will only be one winner.

“We are going to wipe this bird from the map of Andalucía,” the spokesman added.

And the measures? So far, experts have destroyed 5,000 nests from buildings around the city, including the emblematic 18th century cathedral, and neutralised more than 15,000 eggs.

“We coat the eggs in a chemical, which kills off the embryo inside. The eggs are then placed back inside the nest as this tricks the birds into not roosting elsewhere,” explained the council spokesman.

Marksmen have also been shooting at the seagulls at principle feeding sites such as rubbish dumps and fishing ports.

The cull, however, is in sharp contrast to work being carried out in the wetlands of Almería, where officials from the regional government have recorded the highest number of the protected slender-billed gull in ten years.

According to the Junta de Andalucía, more than 100 mating pairs of the bird are nesting at the Punta Entinas-Sabinas marsh between El Ejido and Roquetas del Mar – in sharp contrast to 1995 when numbers of mating pairs of the bird were counted in single figures.

Welfare experts have been working around the clock to tag 60 of the gaviota picafina, a medium-sized gull that lives in isolated colonies around the Mediterranean basin and in the Pacific Ocean, to monitor future movements.

The modus opeandi involves quietly approaching a nest and removing the bird, before then placing a metallic or plastic ring around its leg.

This tag carries an internationally-recognised identification number.

“From here, we believe the gulls will go to the Ebro delta on Spain’s eastern coast, where officials can check on their progress,” regional government spokesman Clemente Garcia said.

“The high numbers of the slender-billed gull demonstrate what a rich biodiversity exists throughout Almería,” he added.

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