Believe it or not the black-headed gull is inoffensive, not belligerent, doesn’t attack trying to pirate your bag of chips and is not a noisy, messy nuisance to our houses and cars.
He is the nice guy, a small gull that often falls foul of his larger cousins. They come into us frail and battered invariably with wing injuries beyond the healing prowess of even our medical team. They are not going to fly again but those of us can give testament that black-headeds spend much of their time standing around in fields and on beaches quite relaxed at not being airborne. Perhaps the smaller gulls feel save on the ground in their serried ranks all looking the same way happy in each other’s company. I have seen the laughing gulls, the same size as our black-headed gulls, adopting the same behaviour, in Florida and even some of them are now being seen integrating in Britain. The trouble is when a black-headed breaks a wing it will keep flapping it in an attempt to escape. The bones are necessarily lightweight breaking into pieces and penetrating the skin. By the time we get the patient it is already too late to try and fix this infected jigsaw. Normally we cannot contemplate birds that will never fly again but disabled black-headeds do seem to prosper and interact given a good environment. Our permanent residents are now a small colony in the water wheel garden of our Visitor Centre. They are thriving in each other’s company and together with a common gull enjoying the grass and small stream to bathe in. They have to be put away at night as even these gulls could fall to roaming feral cats. The black-headed gull does, given the chance, live for a long while. I know that all of us look forward to their company for many years to come.