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Tarapunga - red-billed gull - Larus novaehollandiae | by Steve Attwood
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Tarapunga - red-billed gull - Larus novaehollandiae

This series of photos shows some tarapunga bathing in fresh water. The blac-billed gull is a juvenile of the same species, the eyes, bills and feet turn red upon maturity.

Tarapunga are a native of New Zealand, being found throughout the country and on outlying islands including the Chatham Islands and Sub-antarctic islands. The Red-billed Gull is a fairly small gull with an all-red bill, red eye ring, red legs and feet, pale grey wings with black wingtips. The rest of the body and tail are white. There is virtually no visual difference between the male and female birds. The immature gulls have a dark brown bill with only hints of red. The legs are also brown and there are brown spots on the grey wings.


It is the smallest gull commonly seen in New Zealand; a recent estimate of the population puts it at half a million birds in the country. Until recently it was regarded as a subspecies of the Silver Gull Larus novaehollandiae found in Australia, and the two species are very similar in appearance. However the most recent research suggests that they are not particularly closely related. Behaviourally, the Red-Billed Gull is a typical gull. It is an aggressive scavenger and kleptoparasite. Since European settlement its numbers have increased, especially around coastal towns and cities where it can scavenge from urban waste. It normally feeds on small fish, shell fish and worms (from pastures), and sometimes berries, lizards and insects.


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Taken on July 14, 2012