[Reproduced with minor editing from an article which first appeared in British Birds (1976) 69: 179]
Historical perspective : 'Glaucous and Iceland Gulls in the West Midlands', published in 1976
The increasing tendency of the commoner species of gull to winter inland has been well documented (see, for example, Bird Study, 1: 129-148; 14: 104-113). Most publications, however, still describe the Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus and the Iceland Gull L. glaucoides as exceptional inland, except in the London area. Recent experience in the west midlands, particularly at the larger Staffordshire reservoirs, indicates that both these species are in fact regular visitors to large inland gull roosts. Up to and including the winter of 1974/75, 65 Glaucous Gulls and 50 Iceland were recorded in the historical counties of Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire (including the now separate county of West Midlands), 83% of them since 1968/69. During the course of a single winter as many as eleven Glaucous and eight Iceland Gulls have been identified, and on 11th February 1973 no fewer than three Iceland Gulls were recorded together at Blithfield Reservoir, Staffordshire.
Table 1. Records of Glaucous Gulls Larus
hyperboreus and Iceland Gulls L. glaucoides
in the historical counties of Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire.
All the known records in the three counties are summarised in table 1, adult and immature birds being shown separately. The totals should be regarded as minima, since allowance has been made for the possibility of a single individual making several appearances at the same or neighbouring roosts during the course of a winter. The monthly distribution of records is given in table 2.
Table 2. Monthly distribution of the records summarised in table 1.
It is evident from these figures that since the late 1960's both species have been of regular occurrence, Glaucous generally appearing between December and March and Iceland between late December and March. The total number of birds is not large but, nonetheless, compares favourably with many coastal areas of similar latitude.
An interesting feature of the records is the high percentage of adults involved, particularly in the case of the Iceland Gull. Taking all records into account, 29% of Glaucous and 46% of Iceland were adults; considering only those occurrences since 1969/70 (77% of all records), these figures become 38% and 52% respectively. According to the literature, adult birds of both species are relatively sedentary and rarely move very far south. The increasing proportion of adults in the west midlands may therefore presage a change in the wintering habits of these two species and it will be interesting to see if this trend is maintained.
[Postscript comment: from 1995 onwards the proportion of adults became much lower]
Return to GG index page