* Foundation Voorne Bird Observatory - The Netherlands *
. Norman Deans van Swelm
FRUIT PICKING GIBRALTAR ATLANTIC GULLS
At my request for observations of fruit-eating gulls, I received a considerable number of very interesting cases from both sides of the Atlantic. I thank all those who shared their experiences with us.
Chuck Carlson; Kenn Kaufman; Howard King; Liis Veelma; Verena A. Gill; Noel Wamer; Tony Leukering/Nick Komar; Stephen Hult; Chris Tessaglia-Hymes; Harlow Bielefeldt; Thomas J. Dunkerton; Daniel D. Roby; Christian P. Dau; Andrew Paterson; Eddie Chapman; Johan Elmberg; Andy Harding; Alain Fossé; Christian Dronneau; Fridtjof Ziesemer; Pascal Raevel; Danae Portolou; Rafael Matias; John Cortes; Ernest Garcia; Michalis Dretakis; Peter Meininger; Piotr Tadeusz; Mardik Leopold;
from the United States & Canada
-Kenn Kaufman from Rocky Ridge, Ohio sends this response:
Thanks for sharing
the photos of the Atlantic Gulls picking olives while in flight.
-Howard King from Riverside Ca. says:
Here in Southern California, I've observed California Gulls picking dates from palm trees and Ring-billed Gulls harvesting olives. This is certainly a behavior that I don't see very often. Both times, it was fairly windy.. cheers....!
-Liis Veelma from Winnipeg Manitoba Canada reports:
On September 27,
2005 I saw both adult and immature Ring-billed Gulls Larus
delawarensis and Herring Gulls L. argentatus (or by some
taxonomies American Herring Gulls L. smithsonianus) hovering to
-Verena A. Gill from Anchorage, Alaska notes:
I studied Glaucous-winged gulls Larus glaucescens that picked strawberries on an island in the Gulf of Alaska.
-Noel Wamer from Jacksonville, Florida writes:
I have frequently observed Laughing and Ring-billed gulls feeding on the ripe fruit of cabbage palms (Sabal palmetto). It is quite site to see them hovering around the palms and plucking the fruit.
-Tony Leukering from Brighton, CO points at the following reference:
Nick Komar published a short note (and pictures) on this behavior in Colorado:
Komar, N. 2002. Ring-billed Gulls feeding on Russian-Olive fruit. Journal of the Colorado Field Ornithologists 36:32-34.
-Stephen Hult from Edgewater Maryland reports:
Here in Maryland I have often seen flocks of Ring-billed Gulls Larus delawarensis hovering to feed on ripe persimmons in the fall.
-Chris Tessaglia-Hymes from Ithaca, New York has this to say:
Over the past several years, on at least three different occasions, I have observed Ring-billed Gulls plucking crabapples (Malus sp.) from ornamental trees during the late fall. The trees used are planted in the main parking lots of Ithaca College campus and also at the Cayuga Mall parking lot, both of Ithaca, New York. This gull feeding behavior has included: plucking fruits from the trees while on the wing, landing in the trees and plucking, and foraging for dropped fruits beneath the trees. I suspect my observations were each hit-or-miss, in that these birds may likely use these fruits annually as a food source during a specific window of time. It appears that a small group of gulls can easily clean off a small 6' tree in a matter of hours. Visiting the same site the next day has resulted in no gulls and no fruit. Ring-billed Gull is a common year-round species for Ithaca, New York.
-Harlow Bielefeldt from Waukesha County Brookfield, WI quotes:
"Occasionally eat dates, cherries, blueberries, strawberries." from Ryder, J. P. 1993. Ring-billed Gull. In The Birds of North America, No. 33 (A. Poole, P. Stettenheim, and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences; Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists’ Union. -Omnivorous and omnipresent. h.-
-Thomas J. Dunkerton from Titusville, Florida speculates:
Interesting topic, as I've recently witnessed this myself, observing Ring-billed Gulls. They were eating the berries off of Sabal Palms here in Titusville, Florida. One thing that struck me was, as glutinous as gulls may be perceived to be by some, these birds spent all of about 5 to 10 minutes on these particular tree tops. Couldn't help but wonder if perhaps the berries might just be some sort of digestive aid rather than a meal.
A few images to share can be found here:
-Daniel D. Roby from Corvallis, Oregon writes:
You asked for other observations of gulls picking fruit. I have
been working on colonial waterbirds nesting on the Columbia
Plateau region in the states of Oregon and Washington, in the
U.S. There, California gulls (Larus
californicus) have developed the habit of stripping cherry
trees in cherry orchards of their fruit. This has actually
become a serious loss for cherry growers on the Columbia
Plateau. I have visited some of the California gull colonies on
islands in the Columbia River, and some colonies are absolutely
-Christian P. Dau from Anchorage, Alaska writes:
We have no "wild" olives in Alaska (yet) but I have seen Glaucous Gulls Larus hyperboreus roosting on ericaceous tundra in fall and based on vent staining, they occasionally feed on Crowberries Empetrum nigrum. I'm sorry I don't have photographic documentation but I have handled birds and prepared museum specimens with such evidence.
from Europe & North Africa & the Middle East
-Andrew Patterson from Fuengirola, Spain remembers:
As for the gulls actively picking olives in Gib., I have a dim
memory of a
-Eddie Chapman from Voss, Norway says:
here in Norway I have seen Common Gull Larus canus picking cherries and actually landing in the top of the cherry trees to do so.
-Johan Elmberg from Kristianstad Sweden says:
I read your note and just want to tell you that Larus canus and Larus argentatus can frequently be seen eating berries like Empetrum, Arctostaphylos and Vaccinium on coastal heaths in northern Sweden in late summer and early fall. These fruits are not oily like an olive, but certainly full of sugars and nutritious in that way.
-Piotr Tadeusz from Poland reports:
Larus ridibundus in southern Poland very commonly eat cherries ,landing in the top of the cherry trees to do so.
-Andy Harding from England remembers:
I have seen similar behaviour, but once only. I saw about 8 to
10 Black-headed Gulls Larus
ridibundus hovering around and picking the Haws from a
Hawthorn bush at Bletchley Brick Pits, Buckinghamshire, UK one
winter...about 10 years ago, possibly longer.
-Alain Fossé from Anjou, Montreuil-Juigné, Maine-et-Loire, Western France adds:
Black-headed Gulls Larus ridibundus are known to take cherries from the trees too.
-Christian Dronneau from Strasbourg, France says:
Very common and regular behaviour for
Larus ridibundus with
cherries in east France, around the breeding colonies (every
year and huge quantity swalowed every day during maturity time).
-Fridtjof Ziesemer from Germany states:
As far as I know it is quite normal for Larus canus to pluck cherries from the trees. I have seen it myself, and there should be a number of publications, e.g. in "Ornithologische Mitteilungen".
I looked into the "Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas" and found
in vol. 8/1 on p. 478: "Kirschen (cherries) werden schon von
Immaturen im Flug gepflückt (KLAEHN u.a., Stader avifaun. Jber.
1968/69, 1971), aber auch in großen Mengen vom Boden aufgelesen
(s. HAARMANN,Vogelwelt 93, 1972)."
And from Lühesand, an island in the river Elbe where Common Gulls breed: "Lühesands ... Brutvögel sollen nach Befunden an Speiballen ... hauptsächlich von Mäusen und ab Juli von Kirschen aus dem Alten Land, dem benachbart gelegenen Obstanbaugebiet, leben. Brut- und Rastplätze auf Lühesand können dann "mit Kirschkernen übersät" sein" (p. 223)
-Pascal Raevel from France writes:
The behaviour you mention in Gibraltar, I was lucky enough to enjoy in S Spain, Morocco and Tunisia mainly with Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls Larus melanocephalus (but also bigger species).
Most of my observations concern gulls feeding on the ground (although a few picked the olives directly from the trees).
-Danae Portolou from Athens, Greece writes:
This short note is to let you know that olive-feeding gulls are a very commonly seen in Greece. This must be something that takes place mostly during autumn and winter when the ripe fruit is still on the tree. They mainly feed on wild olive trees which are not cultivated on many islands and islets in the Aegean. Olive pips are found everywhere on breeding islets, among the nests and with pellets also containing insect remains.
was kind enough to look up a short note on Larus ridibundus feeding on olives. It's by J.D.R.Vernon, British Birds 62 (1), 1969. In it the following references are mentioned: Collingwood Ingram, British Birds 61:311; Alauda, 1935, 7:382-401; Revue Francais d'Ornithologie, 1925: 17: 299. Black-headed Gulls are said to have eaten olives in Tunesia and acorns from Quercus , Hawthorn berries, crowberries, bog whortleberries and cherries in Great Britain. Stomach contants in Italy contained olives and figs.
-John Cortes from Gibraltar adds:
Gulls here in Gibraltar frequently pick fruit also of dragon trees Dracaena draco, so they have obviously made it a habit!
-Ernest Garcia from Gibraltar writes:
I have just seen the item in the Seabirds Bulletin on gulls eating olives in Gibraltar. I know this isn't unusual there and they sometimes eat lentisc Pistachia lentiscus fruits as well.
-Michalis Dretakis from Crete writes:
Yellow-legged Gulls, Larus
michahellis taking olives from the trees is a common
behaviour here on Crete-Greece.
-Peter Meininger from The Netherlands reports:
I have seen Common Gulls Larus canus in Poland picking cherries; Mediterranean Gulls Larus melanocephalus picking Sunflower seeds in France and White-eyed Gulls Larus leucophtalmus eating berries from scrub in the Egyptian desert.
Biogeographical Implications of Yellow-Legged
Gulls (Larus cachinnans Pallas) as Seed
Dispersers of Rubia fruticosa Ait. (Rubiaceae)
in the Canary Islands Manuel Nogales,
Felix M. Medina, Vicente Quilis, Mercedes
-Mardik Leopold from The Netherlands refers to Common Gulls picking cherries in Germany in: Kubetzki U., Garthe S. & Hüppop O., 1999. The diet of Common Gulls Larus canus breeding on the German North Sea coast. Atlantic Seabirds 1(2): 57-70.
-Jean Iron from Toronto reports that while on expedition in the Mingan archipelago, Quebec, Canada in July 2007, she saw Herring Gulls (L.smithonianus) eating berries. Though from a distance, she thinks it were blueberries (genus Vaccinium).