The internet is full of wild bird videos. If you want to learn about behavior and vocalizations, it can be a great place to start, at least for certain species. Gulls are a terrific example. They’re loud, they’re conspicuous, they’re tame, and when engaged in their behaviors, they ignore gawking humans with videocameras. I was able to observe more behaviors from more gull species in a few hours on YouTube than I could have seen in a couple of weeks at the beach.
Today, I share the fruits of my labors, categorized by species and behavior type. This is nowhere near comprehensive — each time I go back to the internet, I find more videos worth including. I’ve had to limit this to the large gulls (genus Larus) for now, and even so, many species aren’t even represented here at all yet. If you find footage worth including, please leave a comment or shoot me an email and let me know.
For an introduction to the gull behaviors mentioned here, see my last post. Enjoy!
American Herring Gull
Cornell’s “How Nature Works: Gull Territoriality” – a good overview of gull behaviors, starring mostly Herring Gulls and a few Great Black-backeds
Aggressive encounter with “mew” duet, “choking” display, and fighting. Connecticut, late fall.
Pair of Herring Gulls giving head toss / courtship begging calls, then copulating (loud narration by people nearly throughout)
Copulating pair in Rhode Island (voices of birds hard to hear)
Two juvenile Herring Gulls giving begging calls (July, Saskatchewan)
Glaucous-winged Gull (and/or intergrades)
A pair of apparent Glaucous-wingeds in a park in Washington State in spring — probable courtship behavior, including Mew calls.
A pair-bonding display between two Glaucous-wingeds or possible intergrades: one bird (perhaps the female) gives the Head toss / food-begging call, and the other bird regurgitates a fish
Pair on streetlight, head-tossing, with some begging bill pecks, and accompanying calls; species ID not clear
Pair of apparent Western Gulls giving Mew calls, perhaps some “Choking” displays, then fighting at end:
Solo Western Gull giving a few Mew calls. Catalina Island
Pair fighting with bills locked, apparently without vocalizing; then they break apart and give multiple Long Calls; then a more violent, briefer fight; then the victor struts around giving some low grunts and a final Long Call
Six nice food-begging calls given with head-tosses by one member of a pair on Alcatraz
Female giving head-toss begging call; male quickly mounts; eventually copulation begins accompanied by male copulation grunts. Audio rather terrible. Near Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco.
Copulation with decent audio of male copulation notes. Start and end not shown. La Jolla, California
Copulation; video rather brief but audio decent, with the exception of one comment in middle by videographer
Two Western Gulls fighting in parking lot, giving kek-kek calls (alarm chuckles) constantly. Video from second-story deck with commentary.
Two nice Long Calls, display postures and all, from one individual
Very brief video of some rapid nasal series, including some possible Long Calls
Iceland Gull calls once, rather faintly, near the end of this video (short low nasal bark):
Lesser Black-backed Gull (subspecies graellsii or similar)
One nice Long Call with full display postures, Liverpool, UK:
Closeup of a bird giving alarm chuckles and one Long Call with medium-strong display postures; a little disruptive wind noise:
Pretty cool territorial interaction between a Lesser Black-backed and a European Herring Gull – a Long Call duet at the start, then lots of Mew calls. A few chuckles and “how” calls from the Lesser Black-backed after it wins the fight.
Pair of Lesser Black-backeds Mew-calling in duet; some choking grunts while crouching on ground. Don’t miss Maarten van Kleinwee’s fascinating blog post about this pair and its behavior.
Feeding frenzy of birds, in Iceland in late May, being fed bread. All or mostly Lesser Black-backeds. Plenty of single-note calls.
Adult giving nasal “how” calls, with same from background birds
Alarm chuckles and a few decent mews; then a good long series of a duet of yelp calls; no head-tossing or other obvious displays; context uncertain. Near Reading, UK
Close-up of bird giving a few alarm chuckles. Alkmaar, Netherlands.