Sunday, November 11, 2012

Coney Island's Great Black-backed Gulls

The great black-backed gull, Larus marinus. Click to enlarge.
 A few weeks ago, just before hurricane Sandy, I spent a day at Brooklyn's Coney Island. it was not a big day for urban wildlife, but I saw this fine fat Great Black-Backed Gull at the fishing pier. He eyed me as a potential source of snacks, but flew away when I turned out to be wildlife paparazzi.

The great black-backed gull is easy to identify. It is the largest gull in the world, almost two feet long with a four-foot wingspan. It has a dark grayish-black back, white spots on the tips of the wings, and pink legs. Its bill is yellow with a red dot near the tip. In winter plumage, shown above, it has light dusky streaks on its head.

The great black-backed gull takes four years to reach adulthood and goes through a series of plumages. In this photo a third winter bird is taking wing while an adult floats on the water. Click here for Cornell Lab of Ornithology's plumage descriptions.
Coney Island was at its best that day -- hot dogs, cotton candy, carnival rides, sun, surf, and great black-backed gulls. Here are some photos. I Hope Coney Island is back on its feet soon.
The fishing pier.

The roller coaster.
The carousel.
Scream Zone!

The Wonder Wheel is expected to be back in service for next year's opening. I heard on the news today that rides will be free on opening day, Palm Sunday 2013.

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