Namibia, Botswana & Zambia – Nature Travel Birding

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Return of Bird of the Week: Kelp Gull

Wickersham's Conscience

Kelp Gull, Ushaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina Adult Kelp Gull, Ushaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

WC doesn’t intend to neglect the Southern Hemisphere’s birds. Here is one of the most widely distributed birds of the bottom half of the planet, the Kelp Gull. It’s found throughout the Southern Ocean, from Australia to South America to Africa, and from coastal Antarctica to Ecuador. It’s probably the most widely distributed gull on the planet. An omnivore, tolerant of mankind’s activities and highly adaptable, you have to admire it even if you don’t like it dining menu, which includes penguin chicks and carrion.

Second Year Kelp Gull, Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina Second Year Kelp Gull, Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

Kelp Gulls are three year gulls; that is, they take three years to reach maturity. WC was there in late November, the start of breeding season, so, by definition, juvenile birds weren’t around yet. There was a lot of breeding activity, though.

Kelp Gulls mating, Antarctic Peninsula Kelp Gulls mating, Antarctic Peninsula

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Return of Bird of the Week: Dolphin Gull

Wickersham's Conscience

(This week’s Bird of the Week is late; WC was off the internet for a while.) Another species from southern Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands, the Dolphin Gull is a smaller member of the Larids, the gull family.

Dolphin Gull, Ushaia Harbor, Tierra del Fuego Dolphin Gull, Ushaia Harbor, Tierra del Fuego

With its bright orange-red bill and legs, and yellow eye, it is possibly the easiest gull there is to identify in the field.

Dolphin Gull in flight, New Island, Falkland Islands Dolphin Gull in flight, New Island, Falkland Islands

It’s a scavenger and opportunistic predator. This bird is cruising a mixed colony of Rockhopper Penguins, Black-browed Albatross and King Shags, looking for an unguarded egg of chick. But its smaller size make it a target for bigger scavengers and predators, including Kelp Gulls and Southern Giant Petrels. WC saw Kelp Gulls harass Dolphin Gulls into abandoning food.

Dolphin Gull patrolling the shore, Tierra Del Fuego National Park, Argentine Dolphin Gull patrolling the shore, Tierra Del Fuego National Park, Argentine

As a generalist…

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