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Tips for keeping the gulls away?

Amélie Lescroël, May 20, 2014

Hello, I'm looking for tips from around the world to minimize disturbance when approching gannet colonies to catch individual birds. In recent years, lesser and great black-backed gulls seem to have understood that they can take advantage of our presence in the colony for pulling some chicks out of the nests located at the colony periphery. I was wondering whether some of you had found efficient (or partly efficient) solutions to keep the gulls away when working on seabird colonies? Best, Amélie

Comments ( 5 )

Bianca Vieira

Hello, Amélie. A South American group in Antarctica uses big paper boxes as camouflage to catch birds in colonies with minimum disturbance. If you are interested, please send me an email ( and we can talk more about it. Best, Bianca Vieira

Tony Diamond

We have found paint-ball guns (the more powerful the better) can be quite effective; fun, too! Tony Diamond

Larissa Cunha

Larissa Cunha

Hi Amélie, I work with Brown Booby and Magnificent Frigatebird. At the Brown Booby's colony, I try to work fast and move away from the nest as soon as possible, and the disturbance is very low. However, at the Frigatebird's colony, where the bigger risk comes from the other Frigatebird males, I started to work at night. The disturbance by other males was reduced to zero. In addition to that the adult birds captured at night are less stressed and tend to stay in the nest when returned to it. Best Regards, Larissa Cunha

Amélie Lescroël

Paint-ball guns do look like fun but black-backed gulls are protected species, thus I might rather try water guns... Larissa, I'm interested by your experience of night work. In that case, I guess that you need to enter the colony twice (once for catching the bird, once for returning it at its exact nest) rather than just once in daylight when we release the bird outside of the colony, so that it can go on its foraging trip? Actually, northern gannets are rather shy in our study colony and we don't even really enter the colony, just approach slowly (crawling) the edge of the colony, then work with a 10m pole to catch the target bird, go away from the colony with the bird (this is when the gulls come and try to get the chicks from some of the nests at the periphery, during the few seconds/minutes it takes to the few adults that stepped away from their nests to come back), equip it with electronic devices then release it towards the ocean. I wonder whether it would not create some disturbance to enter the colony at night for releasing the bird at its nest (and hoping it doesn't jump away in the dark)? Thanks all for your help!

Larissa Cunha

Larissa Cunha

Actually, the colonies I work have very low densities compared with the Northern Gannet colonies. The Brown Booby's colony has about six nest per 5 m2 and the Fregatebird's colony may have a little more but only in the bushes, so I can walk in between them and work in between them. During the work we try to talk very low and do calm and slow movements so we do not disturb the nest around us. Both species can be active at night so they can go back to their nest if released away from them. Some of them do not stay at their nest when released, but return in a few minutes. Maybe it can work with the Northern Gannet and you will not need to release it at the nest. If you like I can send you pictures of the field work. My e-mails are or