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Black-billed Gull Larus bulleri
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Surveys indicate that this species may have undergone a very rapid decline over three generations (32 years). It is therefore listed as Endangered.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

37 cm. Pale grey-and-white gull. Adult, pale, silvery-grey back and wings. Thinly black-bordered wing-tips. White underparts. Long, thin, black bill. Black to reddish-black legs and feet. White eye. Juvenile, more extensive black on wing-tips. Pale, flesh bill with dark tip. Pinkish to reddish-black legs. Brown eye. Similar spp. Red-billed Gull L. novaehollandiae has shorter, deeper bill - red in adults, darker grey wings, more extensive black on wing-tips.

Distribution and population
Larus bulleri is endemic to New Zealand. The majority of the population (78%) breeds in Southland (Taylor 2000), mostly on the Mataura, Oreti, Aparima and Waiau rivers (Powlesland 1998). On the Oreti and Aparima, the number of breeding birds appears to have plummeted by as much as 90% in the last one to two decades (Powlesland 1998, Taylor 2000, McClellan in litt. 2007). Upper Waitaki catchment populations declined between the 1960s and 1990s, with breeding colonies disappearing from six rivers (Maloney 1999). Recent surveys at one minor colony in the Hunter Valley, Otago, showed numbers had dropped from 581 in 1969 to just 12, with the same trend seen in the nearby Makarora catchment area (R. Hitchmough in litt. 2005). Overall, Southland counts estimated a minimum of 57,000 pairs in 1985-1986 (Taylor 2000), declining by c.40% to 33,500 pairs in 1996-1997 (Powlesland 1998). Its numbers and range continue to increase in the North Island, but these colonies are small and the increase does not offset the South Island declines (R. Hitchmough in litt. 2005). The most complete nationwide census was carried out in 1996-1997 (G. A. Taylor per R. Coumbe in litt. 2000), and counted 48,000 nests (Powlesland 1998). Some birds remain at colonies throughout the year, others move from inland breeding sites to the coasts (Higgins and Davies 1996).

Population justification
The most complete nationwide census was carried out in 1996-1997 (G. A. Taylor per R. Coumbe in litt. 2000), and counted 48,000 nests (Powlesland 1998), thus the number of mature individuals is estimated to be 96,000; however, more up-to-date survey data are required.

Trend justification
Very rapid declines have been noted in a number of this species's populations over the last couple of decades. Despite increases in numbers of a few smaller colonies, the species is believed to be undergoing a continuing and very rapid decline overall.

In the South Island, it breeds mainly on braided river systems (Higgins and Davies 1996, Taylor 2000). In the North Island, it uses sand-spits, shellbanks, lake margins and riverflats (Taylor 2000). It often roosts and feeds on farmland, and scavenges in urban areas where refuse is available (Higgins and Davies 1996). It has a varied diet of terrestrial, freshwater and marine invertebrates, fish and shellfish (Higgins and Davies 1996, Heather and Robertson 1997). Breeding can begin after two years (Heather and Robertson 1997), but many individuals do not start until six years old, and adults may live over 30 years (R. Hitchmough in litt. 2005).

Brown rats Rattus norvegicus take eggs and chicks in the North Island. Remote video cameras have shown that mustelids Mustela spp. and feral cats are major predators on South Island colonies, often taking hundreds of chicks in a season (Biswell 2006). Hedgehogs may also take eggs. The recreational use of riverbeds and coastal areas is increasing, causing greater disturbance of nesting colonies (Taylor 2000). River modification (including hydroelectric development, and water and gravel extraction) also has a significant impact. The spread of weeds is a major threat, reducing suitable nesting habitat on riverbeds (Maloney 1999, Taylor 2000).

Conservation Actions Underway
Studies of breeding biology, movements and dispersal are being undertaken. Localised and nationwide counts are on-going. Habitat restoration and protection in the MacKenzie Basin is undertaken as part of Project River Recovery, including predator research and a public awareness campaign (Taylor 2000). Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor key breeding populations. Initiate nest protection and trapping of introduced predators at key colonies. Initiate riverbed weed control if nesting habitat continues to be lost. Assess the possible impacts of further hydroelectric dam projects, and gravel and water extraction proposals (Taylor 2000).

Biswell, S. 2006. Ferals filmed killing endangered chicks. Forest and Bird 319.

Heather, B. D.; Robertson, H. A. 1997. The field guide to the birds of New Zealand. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Higgins, P. J.; Davies, S. J. J. F. 1996. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds vol 3: snipe to pigeons. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Maloney, R. F. 1999. Bird populations in nine braided rivers of the Upper Waitaki Basin, South Island, New Zealand: changes after 30 years. Notornis 46: 243-256.

Powlesland, R. 1998. Gull and tern survey. Ornithological Society of New Zealand News 88: 3-9.

Taylor, G. A. 2000. Action plan for seabird conservation in New Zealand. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Harding, M., Khwaja, N., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., Taylor, J. & Symes, A.

Hitchmough, R., McClellan, R. & Taylor, G.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Larus bulleri. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Black-billed gull (Larus bulleri) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Laridae (Gulls, Terns, Skimmers)
Species name author Hutton, 1871
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 8,700 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species