Photo by Peter Grant
The Kelp Gull is the second largest of Australia's gulls (550-580 mm). Adults have a white
head, neck, underbody, rump and tail. The upperparts and wing are black with a white leading edge. The
yellow bill has a red spot on the lower tip.
Fledglings are grey-brown with paler
mottling on the neck and breast and have a black bill but they soon develop a pale base to the bill and
largely white head and underparts as they mature. They take three or four years to
Kelp Gulls are smaller than the Pacific Gull
, Larus pacificus
and have a less massive bill.
The Kelp Gull occurs in coastal bays, beaches, inlets and
estuaries and on off-shore islands. They are often seen scavenging at refuse tips
Kelp Gulls are opportunistic omnivores and will scavenge as well as prey on molluscs, fish, crustaceans, other
seabirds, and even their own chicks and eggs.
The Kelp Gull habitually drops molluscs from
the air onto rocks to smash them open.
Kelp gulls nest on beaches, among rocks, grassy
headlands, ledges and offshore islands. The nest is a bowl of grasses and plants stems or a shallow scrape in sand lined with seaweed,
shells and debris. The female usually lays 2 or 3 eggs. Both parents feed
the young birds. Chicks peck at red spot on the parent's beak to stimulate the regurgitation reflex.
A melancholy "yo-yo-yo-yo-yo" which is unlike the call of any other Tasmanian gull and will sound familiar as part of the soundscape of films and movies set on coastlines.
The Kelp Gull occurs on coasts and islands through much of the southern hemisphere from New Zealand and most sub-Antarctic islands, the Antarctic Peninsula, South
America, and Africa.
Kelp Gull first become established in Australia in the 1940s. Their numbers increased rapidly and
they are now found in many parts of the south-east and south-west
coasts of mainland Australia.
They are common in south-east and eastern Tasmania.