Winter is the time for tagged gulls

11 01 2013
Hard to miss: large format wing tag on a juvenile gull.

Hard to miss: large format wing tag on a juvenile gull.

We’ve had a rash of emails in the past couple weeks asking about tagged and banded gulls. Non-Seanetters observing a gull labeled in some way seem to find us here at the blog when they search “tagged gull” online, which is gratifying. While SEANET does not do the tagging, we do keep an eye on the work of gull researchers and are happy to direct these inquiries to the right people. The most conspicuous tags, day-glo colored wing shields bearing an alphanumeric code, are associated with Dan Clark and Ken MacKenzie’s wintering gull study. Dan and Ken work for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Their work seeks to keep the Quabbin and Wachusett drinking water reservoirs clean and as free of bird wastes as possible. The tagging project looks to study gulls’ daily and seasonal movements, what they eat, where they sleep, and their population dynamics. The large, conspicuous tags were chosen because they are so readily readable by people without binoculars. Since many of these gulls are seen in parking lots, around dumpsters, on soccer fields, and other human-made environments, the researchers know that very often it will be casual observers–non-birders–who are most likely to encounter these animals.

Sure enough, the birds we’ve heard about from people writing to report them were all loafing around docks, piers, or parking lots. Every sighting of these birds is valuable, so whether you are seeing it for the first time, or it’s been in your grocery store parking lot for a week, Dan and Ken want to know. If you see one of these gulls, please note both the letter and number on the tag if you can, and report the info to Ken.Mackenzie@state.ma.us (508-792-7423 x313) or Dan.Clark@state.ma.us (508-792-7423 x215) with wing-tag information.

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