World’s smallest gulls nest in Scotland for first time at Loch of Strathbeg

Little Gulls at Loch of Strathbeg May 2016 [Picture: Ian Francis]
Little Gulls at Loch of Strathbeg May 2016 [Picture: Ian Francis]

The world’s smallest gull is nesting in Scotland for the first time at a nature reserve on the outskirts of Fraserburgh.

The egg of two Little Gulls found at the Loch of Strathbeg is the first confirmed breeding of the species in Scotland and only the sixth in Britain from 1970.

Richard Humpidge, RSPB Scotland Sites Manager, said: “We’re really excited to have these smashing little birds nesting on the reserve.

“A few years back, we did a lot of work on our tern nesting island reshaping it and adding 10 tons of shingle and shelters as well as installing a fence around the edge of the pool to prevent access for ground predators.”

There’s no confirmed record of little gulls successfully raising chicks in Britain, so all eyes will be on this pair.

It’s hoped that their choice of nesting area at RSPB Scotland’s Loch of Strathbeg nature reserve will help them as the pair have set up home on the tern nesting island.

Along with the protection provided by the island being inside a fence, RSPB Scotland staff will mount a 24 hour watch and use cameras to protect these rare birds.

Mr Humpidge said: “We hope that it will also give them the protection they need to raise chicks when their eggs hatch shortly.”

Little gulls, as their Latin name Hydrocoloeus minutus suggests, are the smallest species of gull.

Weighing not much more than a blackbird, they are often thought to more closely resemble terns than larger gulls. Breeding adults have jet black heads with a small dark bill, short red legs and dark smoky grey underwings that are unmistakable when the birds are in flight.