Introduction of the Andean Gull
The Andean gull (Chroicocephalus serranus) is a species of seabird in the Laridae family. It is one of the 22 species of gulls and is native to the tropical coasts of south and southeast America. It is usually found in habitats close to the coasts and is also sometimes seen inland in marshes and freshwater lagoons. The whitish-grey plumage of the Andean gull is marked with a black hooded head and neck, dark grey upperparts and a slightly forked tail. Most Andean gulls have a wingspan of about 76 cm and weigh 600-800 g.
Behaviours of the Andean Gull
Andean gulls exist in a complex social system in which they form lasting pairs, maintaining a strong territorial bond. They tend to nest in colonies at altitude usually near lakes and marshes, where temperatures are cooler than near the coasts. Breeding starts in the beginning of the wet, warm season by late spring or early summer and usually lasts until midsummer. In this period Andean gulls form regular courtship displays.
The diet of the Andean gulls is made up of insects, crustaceans, fish, and mollusks, sometimes complemented with other items like vegetables, eggs and chicks. They have adapted to take advantage of human presence, and have opportunistically fed from garbage.
Can You Pet an Andean Gull?
Given the wild nature of Andean Gulls and the unpredictability of their behaviour, it is advisable to avoid contact with them. Like many wild animals, they can become aggressive if they perceive humans as a threat.
However it is still possible to interact with them with minimal risk. Just as with any bird, a well-placed treat (a piece of food) can capture the interest of the Andean gull, and the bird will usually come to investigate the source of the treat, and even expect more food in the future.
It’s important to remember that while they may be attracted to food, they must never be hand-fed. Even if they seem friendly, they are still wild animals, and will perceive any sudden movements or touching as a threat.
Observing Andean Gulls Safely
It could be argued that no meaningful contact with Andean gulls can occur, due to the limited trust that wild animals put into unfamiliar humans. Nevertheless, very close observation of their behaviours, including courtship and mating, can be rewarding.
For instance, the best time to observe a pair of Andean gulls is during the breeding season, when their display of courtship behaviour will take place at dawn and dusk. To ensure your safety and the safety of the birds, a good distance of several meters between you and the birds must be maintained.
The appearance of a boat nearby can also be exciting for a couple of Andean gulls, since they often view the vessel as a large object in which to inspect for food. In this case, the mere presence of you and your boat in the near vicinity of a pair of Andean gulls can be relatively safe, but keep any sudden movements to a minimum.
Benefits of Observing Andean Gulls
By observing the behaviour of Andean Gulls, you can discover their nesting habits and social life. Such knowledge can be extremely useful when managing gulls living in urban areas, where they are sometimes a nuisance. With the right education, such nuisance behaviour can be reduced, allowing a better coexistence between people and these birds.
In addition, observing Andean Gulls can also be a great way to appreciate the complexity of wild behaviours. From their courtship to their feeding preferences, seeing these animals in their natural environment can be a truly moving experience.
It is clear that despite their wild nature, Andean Gulls can be observed, in a relatively safe way, by bird watchers. While contact with these birds should be minimized, our understanding of their behaviour can benefit both them and people living in their habitat.
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