Thursday, April 26, 2012

Laughing Gull

Even if you forgo the Whooping Crane tour boats, Rockport, Texas, is great for birding. Our hotel was within walking distance of the Rockport Beach Park. This proximity saved us from an entry fee charged to automobiles. We enjoyed birding here during our last visit several years ago in January. In April the Laughing Gull nesting area, which also contained a few nesting Black Skimmers, was in full swing.
We witnessed many gull behaviors that we previously only read about in behavior textbooks. Laughing Gulls turn aggressive when they see black heads and white eye rings. This reaction makes it hard to attract a mate. So the gulls use a display called Facing-Away. Birds face each other, but turn their heads to one side. This way they do not see each others' black faces or white eye rings. Only gradually is a pair able to face one another, but they often have to fluff their head feathers so that the heads appear less black.
The Hunched Posture is another appeasement display. At the same time, the females give a low "mew" or "croon." The females show this posture during courtship and just before copulation. By pulling their heads into their body plumage, the females appear smaller and more compact. From this posture, females often solicit courtship feeding (Burger 1996).

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