Gordonton bird watchers get new bird for NZ

New Zealand has clocked up a new species of gull – and it’s down to two Gordonton birders.

A few weeks ago N8N mentioned the sighting and since that time the Laughing Gull has been officially recognised as a new bird species for New Zealand.  Colin Miskelly, curator of terrestrial vertebrates, filed this report on Te Papa’s Blog.


Laughing gull
Not your average gull, this little fella. Pic: David Riddell

“CHRISTMAS arrived two days early for Waikato bird-watchers Annette Taylor and David Riddell when they spotted New Zealand’s first laughing gull.

They were heading to Gisborne, and had stopped for a picnic at Te Ahiaua Reserve, 7 km west of Opotiki in the eastern Bay of Plenty. Te Ahiaua Reserve is on the shore of the Waiotahi River estuary, and like most coastal road ends, it supports a small flock of red-billed gulls, waiting for handouts.

It was Annette who first noticed the unusual visitor, casually commenting ‘Oh look, a Franklin’s gull’ – referring to another rare vagrant that has reached New Zealand on three or four occasions.

Laughing Gull
“Who me?” Yup.

Annette and David had seen a Franklin’s gull at Papakura in 2009, and the Te Ahiaua bird did look similar, with both birds having a few black feathers on their heads, hinting at their smart black-headed look when in breeding plumage.

David posted a few images of the bird on the birders’ webforum BirdingNZ.net, and within 90 minutes the first suggestions that it might be a laughing gull popped up…”


Says Annette – “The birding community went into a flap since we posted our sighting – keen ornithologists from all over have been converging on this most beautiful spot in the hope of seeing the gull. And nearly all do, because it turns out our bird is a glutton for food scraps, and particularly enjoys fried chicken.”

Click here for the rest of Colin’s Te Papa Blog, and to find out about the nice couple who had been feeding gulls in their back yard – and had noticed an unusual one that quacked.

The bird was last seen on Whitangi Day. At that time it had completed its wing feather moult and would have been capable of flying great distances.  Hopefully it’s going home.


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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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