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LARIDAE

Gulls, terns, noddies and skimmers

COURTSHIP DISPLAYS:  

Gulls, terns, noddies and skimmers perform courtship displays in order to attract a female or to strengthen the pair-bonds. They share several types of courtship, with some differences.

Gulls engage in courting of potential mate, and mated pairs strengthen the pair-bonds. They use several types of calls such as “long call”, mew or crooning calls with “head-toss” during the calls.

SUMMARY OF THIS STUDY

Introduction and Description of the species

Feeding behaviour

Reproduction :

The nest
The defence displays
The courtship displays
Nesting behaviour

Movements and migrations

Protection and threats

Conclusion

 

Text by Nicole Bouglouan

Photographers:

Aurélien Audevard
OUESSANT DIGISCOPING

Alfredo Colón
Puerto Rico Wildlife

Maxime Dechelle
LEPAPARRAZO

Steve Garvie
RAINBIRDER Photo galleries

Tom Grey
Tom Grey's Bird Pictures

Paul Guillet
Photos d'Oiseaux

René Lortie
http://rlortie.ca

Tom Merigan
Tom Merigan’s Photo Galleries

Patrick Ingremeau
TAMANDUA

Jean Michel Peers
JMPN PHOTOGRAPHIE

Yves Thonnérieux
NATUR’AILES

Callie de Wet
Flickr Galleries

Nicole Bouglouan
PHOTOGRAPHIC RAMBLE

 

Sources :  

HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Volume 3 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliott-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN : 8487334202

THE HANDBOOK OF BIRD IDENTIFICATION FOR EUROPE AND THE WESTERN PALEARCTIC by Mark Beaman, Steve Madge - C.Helm - ISBN: 0713639601

OISEAUX DE LA REUNION par Armand Barau - Nicolas Barré - Christian Jouanin - Editions Orphie - ISBN : 2877632636

L’ENCYCLOPEDIE MONDIALE DES OISEAUX - Dr Christopher M. Perrins -  BORDAS - ISBN: 2040185607

 

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Summary articles

 

Once the pair is formed, we can notice the intensification of the displays, calling and courtship feeding.

Herring Gull

Larus argentatus

Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis

The male offers fish to the female in the period prior the egg-laying.

This display is usually associated with copulation.

Black-headed Gull

Chroicocephalus ridibundus

Copulation occurs about 7-10 days before egg-laying, with calls and wing-flagging.

Laughing Gull

Leucophaeus atricilla

The choice of the nest-site involves other displays named “Chokes”. Each bird selects several potential sites and then, both partners “chokes” at its favoured site by pressing the cheek towards the ground and touching it. When the nest-site is selected, both mates “chokes” in tandem for several minutes.

Grey-hooded Gull - Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus

California Gull - Larus californicus

Terns perform courtship displays on the ground and in the air. These displays are initiated when the male offers a fish to a female.

Caspian Tern - Hydroprogne caspia

Least Tern - Sternula antillarum
Forster's Tern - Sterna forsteri

She swallows it immediately, or keeps it in the bill during the displays.
Both sexes engage in aerial displays such as “high-flight” or “fish-flight”. They fly in tandem, flying high in the air, and alternate with glides on stiff wings.

White-cheeked Tern

Sterna repressa

Once the pair is formed, the female defends the territory while the male feeds her. Other displays are performed prior to copulation, with both mates circling around each other with dropped wings and bill pointed downwards. During the copulation, male raises the wings in “copulatory-wing-flagging”.

Common Tern - Sterna hirundo

Caspian Tern - Hydroprogne caspia

Usually, the male feeds the female during the incubation, but both adults share the territory defence and the nesting duties.  

 

Noddies use courtship feeding too. This display is initiated by the female begging food from the male. He may feed her several times a day.

Brown Noddy

Anous stolidus

They also perform “fish-flight” during which one bird gives a fish to its mate.

 

Skimmers, pairs or groups, engage in aerial chases during pair formation. Often several males pursue one female. They fly in all directions, while giving strongly their love-calls.

Black Skimmer

Rynchops niger

At the end of the chase, the male extends the wings for short instant and struts by the side of female.
Courtship feeding occurs within groups and little by little, pairs are more spaced. They usually breed in colonies of terns. 

Courtship displays are performed mainly by males which try to display the most conspicuous parts of body and head.

Other displays are used to prove their ability to rear a clutch and protect young and female.

Black Skimmer

Rynchops niger

Arctic Tern - Sterna paradisaea
Whiskered Tern - Chlidonias hybrida