Herring gulls are the common “sea gull” of the greater North Atlantic region. In point of fact, they are not strictly “seabirds” at all, they spend the vast majority of their time along the shore line, and are also found in inland fresh water settings. On Great Duck Island they nest in seven major sub-colonies, ranging in size from 7 to several hundred pairs. Each pair maintains a breeding territory around its nest from which other birds are excluded. Gulls on GDI typically lay 3 eggs, which they incubate for somewhat over 3 weeks. Young gulls can fly approximately 6 weeks after hatching. They disperse along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and Canada. So far we have had band returns from New Jersey and also from the Great Lakes, as well as from as close as Bar Harbor!
Herring gulls, like many other species of birds were driven close to extinction in the late 19th century by a combination of habitat disturbance, egging, and hunters serving the hat industry. Birds on Great Duck seem to have been spared in part because of the island’s relative inaccessibility. In 2002 we estimated that approximately 1000 pairs of Herring Gulls nested on the island.
Major predators on the gull chicks and eggs include Bald Eagles, Ravens, and Crows. Black Backed gulls also eat chicks and eggs, particularly when the adult Herring gulls are disturbed and driven off their nesting territory by visiting humans.