Pacific Gull

Adult Pacific Gull
Adult Pacific Gull

The Pacific Gull Larus pacificus is Australia’s largest, endemic gull species. This species has a very large range, occurring across southern Australia. There are two subspecies Larus pacificus pacificus and Larus pacificus georgii. The subspecies pacificus breeds in Tasmania, on many Bass Strait islands and westward along the Victorian coast from Wilson's Promontory to the South Australian border. The subspecies georgii is found on the coasts of south-western Western Australia and western South Australia. It has been suggested that its range has expanded in recent years northwards along the Western Australian coast. At the same time, pacificus may have contracted down the NSW coast, possibly as a result of increased urbanisation and the loss of breeding and foraging habitat.

With an estimated 11,000 mature individuals the population of this species seems to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats. As a result the 2010 IUCN Red List registers the Pacific Gull as ‘Least Concern’ (Birdlife International 2011).

Immature Pacific Gull
Immature Pacific Gull

Breeding for this species occurs between September and January, either as solitary nesters, small or loose colonies. Eggs (2 or 3) are laid in a solidly build nest, often containing long pieces of grass woven into the nest bowl. When chicks are first hatched they keep to the nest site but later seek refuge in the nearby shrubbery. When frightened young will take to the water in the pre-fledge phase.

The Pacific Gull has a diverse diet including fish, squid, intertidal molluscs, echinoderms and crabs, shearwater and storm-petrel eggs and chicks, fish offal, carrion and refuse. This species has proved adaptable in exploiting new food sources provided by urbanisation.

 

As with other coastal species, the Pacific Gull is prone to human disturbance both while breeding and foraging. Most nest sites are protected, many as IBAs and continued monitoring and research will help determine further conservation actions. Unfortunately, a large proportion of research that has been conducted on this species remains unpublished and this species runs the risk of becoming a victim of ‘graveyard ornithology’.

Key references on Pacific Gulls:

BirdLife International (2011) Species factsheet: Larus pacificus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/03/2011.

 

Brothers N, Pemberton D, Pryor H, Halley V (2001) ‘Tasmania’s Offshore Islands: Seabirds and Other Natural Features.’ (Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery: Hobart, Tasmania). 

 

Coulson R (1998) Population change among Pacific, kelp and silver gulls using natural and artifical feeding sites in south-eastern Tasmania. Wildlife Research 25: 183-198.

 

Coulson R, Coulson G (1993) Diets of the Pacific Gull Larus pacificus and Kelp Gulls Larus dominicanus in Tasmania. Emu 93: 50-53.

 

Fergusson SC (2005) ‘A study of the behaviours and time budgets of Pacific Gulls Larus p. pacificus breeding in the southern Furneaux Group, Tasmania.’ BSc (Hons) thesis, La Trobe University, Victoria. (unpub.)

 

Holloway BP (2001) ‘The reproductive biology of the Pacific Gull, Larus pacificus, breeding in loose pairs and colonies in the Furneaux Group, Tasmania.’ BSc (Hons) thesis, La Trobe University, Victoria. (unpub.)

 

Lindsay MCM (2004) ‘The diet of eastern Pacific Gulls Laurs pacificus pacificus in the southern Furneaux Group, Tasmania.’ BSc (Hons) thesis, La Trobe University, Victoria. (unpub.) 

 

Lindsay MCM, Meathrel CE (2008) Where, when and how? Limitations of the techniques used to examine the dietary preference of Pacific Gulls (Larus pacificus) using non-consumed parts of prey and regurgitated pellets of prey remains. Waterbirds 31: 611-619.

 

Robertson BI (1977) Identification of Pacific and Dominican Gulls. Australian Bird Watcher 7: 5-10.

 

Widdup L (2004) ‘The role of nest site selection on the reproductive success of eastern Pacific Gulls Larus pacificus pacificus breeding in the Furneaux Group, Tasmania.’ BSc (Hons) thesis, La Trobe University, Victoria. (unpub.)