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Pacific Gull, Larus pacificus

Pacific Gull
Photo by Alex Dudley

Description

The Pacific Gull is the largest of Tasmania's gulls, reaching 650mm in length. Adults are white with black wings and back. In flight, a sub-terminal black band is noticeable on the tail. The legs are yellow to orange-yellow.

The Pacific Gull is characterised by a massive, red-tipped yellow bill, which helps distinguish the species from the similar Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus), which has a much smaller bill, as well as being smaller in size.

Young birds are mottled dark brown with a black-tipped yellow to pink bill. Juveniles attain their adult plumage after four years.

Two subspecies are recognised - Larus pacificus pacificus occurs in Tasmania.

Habitat

The Pacific Gull is usually found on sandy beaches but also rocky coasts and offshore islands. It can also be seen in very high numbers on rubbish tips near the coast, as well as roosting on structures such as wharves and jetties and in pursuit of fishing boats.

Diet

The species forages along sandy beaches, feeding mainly on molluscs, fish, crabs and other marine animals. They are usually seen singularly or in pairs. Birds occasionally drop shellfish or crabs from a height onto rocks.

Breeding

The Pacific Gull breeds from October to December in single pairs or small, loose colonies on offshore islands, cliffs and headlands. The nest is a shallow cup made of sticks, grasses or seaweed on the ground. Both sexes build the nest. Two to three mottled brown eggs are laid. The female does most of the incubation while the male forages for food and stands guard near the nest.

Call

The call is a loud honk-like, "auk, auk".

Distribution

Distribution Map courtesy Natural Values Atlas, data from theLIST
© 2010 State of Tasmania
The Pacific Gull is endemic to southern Australia.

The subspecies L. p. georgii is found on the coasts of south-western Western Australia and western South Australia.

The subspecies L. p. pacificus occurs in Tasmania, and is widespread around the coast and Bass Strait islands and river margins and is often seen in inland areas. It also occurs along the Victorian coast from Wilson's Promontory to the South Australian border.

Although Tasmania acts as the Pacific Gull's stronghold, the Kelp Gull, which has become an increasingly common species since the 1930s,  is displacing the Pacific Gull in some parts of Tasmania.