Black-backed gull (karoro)

This large gull, or one of four other subspecies, is common throughout temperate and subantarctic habitats in the Southern Hemisphere. It has become so common in New Zealand that it is one of only two native species for which there is no legal protection. As an efficient scavenger, the species has thrived at garbage disposal sites, on the waste generated from food processing, and offal from farming. This big bird is also a predator and at times this can be to the detriment of endangered wildlife.

None of this detracts from the stunning plumage of an adult bird: contrasting black wings with white body and yellow bill. The ubiquitousness of black backed gulls and their brazen approaches make them a favourite study for wildlife photographers. Juveniles are less remarkable with their mottled brown plumage which is retained through various moults until the bird is three years old.

A black backed gull is likely to be present on any beach along the Abel Tasman coastline, ready to make an honest living from washed up marine life or a quick raid on a backpacker's picnic.

Along this coastline these gulls breed in pairs, maintaining a linear territory, but others are colonial breeders such as on the Nelson Boulder Bank.

Black-backed gull

Black-backed gull (karoro). Photo: New Zealand Birds Online

Black-backed gull (karoro) calls on New Zealand Birds Online.

More info on New Zealand Birds Online.