Gulls and terns

Some of the typical coastal birds belong to these two families. Without their cries, a visit to the sea would not be the same. While the gulls in the Canary Islands get along well with humans, the terns have a problem with the development of the coastal strips.

Gulls (Laridae)

Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis)

The yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis, Gaviota patiamarilla, 55 – 67 cm) is the only coastal bird whose population is currently growing. In the 80s, its number was estimated at over 4000 pairs. Adapted to the human presence, a large proportion of them can often be found in rubbish dumps.

They can be seen near the coast, especially on fishing boats or when shoals of fish are at sea. Seagulls are often confused with shearwaters, although they are slimmer and more elegant.

Black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)

Please do not feed the gulls, they are a threat to other seabirds as they steal their eggs. The ospreys are also displaced by the gulls. On one occasion I could observe that an osprey with prey was immediately crowded by 4 yellow-legged gulls.

Besides the yellow-legged gulls, lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus), black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) and great black-backed gull (Larus marinus) appear occasionally.

Terns (Sternidae)

Common Tern Young bird (Sterna hirundo)

The common tern (Sterna hirundo, Charran común, 31 – 35 cm) occasionally appears in the open sea, but prefers to stay close to the coast. Characteristic are the long narrow wings with which they manoeuvre very skilfully. Only 50 – 90 pairs can still be found on the Canary Islands (2000), but they make a lot of noise. If you happen to be near a nest, you can be prepared for an attack. One of the workers at the refinery in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, told us that the new trainees there are being initiated in a special way: they are exposed with a helmet on the small platforms of the oil tankers when the terns breed there.

Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)

You can also encounter Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis, Charrán patinegro, 36 -41 cm, in late summer and early spring) or the Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea), which is very similar to the Common Tern. The roseate tern (Sterna dougallii) rarely passes by here.