Friday, January 29, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Island's western gull males remind desirious females that Valentine's Day is a ways off


While our island's resident female gulls have been issuing romantic overatures to their male partners, the males have been holding fast. In return, sometimes they have even offered their sweethearts a pointed reminder of what a disaster it would be to start breeding season ahead of schedule.





Thinking I might have the opportunity to document some early mating, I recorded this female, the smaller gull on the left, trying to entice her male. She positioned herself with her back to her partner and began the upward movement of the head seen in the video, along with the vocalization that accompanies it.This is how one western gull tells another that he or she wants food or sex.

However, just as I hit the record button, the male gull violently denied her, giving her instead a stern bite to the neck. This occurs in the video's opening moment.

We observed similar interactions among other western gull pairs, albeit without the violence.

Odds and ends
  • Canada geese have arrived on Alcatraz. We can't be everywhere on the island at once, but our sense now that we're hosting around eight or so. The canada goose is divided into several subspecies and one of the next items on our amateur bird detective agenda is to find out what subspecies our geese belong to.
  • The pigeon guillemots have also returned, seemingly going from invisible and absent to ubiquitous and loud in about a week.
  • Brown pelicans now fly over the island with regularity. As recently as a year ago, pelicans not sick or injured avoided Alcatraz as if it were the center of evil and dishonor in the bird universe. While this isn't exactly a sensational observation, it's no less baffling for that. What has changed?
  • Numerous brandt's cormorants have been seen on Alcatraz and in the waters around it. We can't wait to see if they return to breed.
  • The common raven pair has been far less visible over the last week or two.
  • The falcon had a bloody adventure recently. Stay tuned to MAGANRORD for BourbonHawk's upcoming post. Here's a little taste:
I wonder what she has there.

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