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Unusual. Why so many seagulls in Seine-et-Marne and around Paris?

Under the flight of crested lapwings, laughing gulls, who have taken up residence in this retention basin at the entrance to Melun (©JVC/RSM77)

On the small retention pond, located at the A5 interchange, near of Melun (Seine-et-Marne), mornings and evenings, an impressive aerial ballet is visible. Hundreds of white birds are, sometimes in flight towards the neighboring fields, sometimes grouped together on the expanse of water: they are black-headed gulls. But why seagullsa species that we tend to come across by the seais it grouped at the heart of the Seine-et-Marne and more widely in the Paris region?

Seagulls and gulls

“Contrary to popular belief, the laughing gull – popularized by Franquin, the creator of Gaston Lagaffe – which is the most present in Ile-de-France, is not specifically a seaside bird, explains Olivier Laporte, volunteer at the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) in Ile-de-France. It is found in large numbers along rivers and streams and more widely around bodies of water. »

In late summer, nesting gull populations are bolstered by birds arriving from northern and eastern Europe. “These migrations to Ile-de-France have been proven by the recovery of ringed birds in Paris and from countries like Finland, Lithuania and even Moldova,” he explains.

On the left, a black-headed gull, on the right a herring gull
On the left, a black-headed gull, on the right a herring gull (©Olivier Laporte/LPO)

The birds gather during the winter period near bodies of water, but also near cities, where they find food more easily. In winter, the total number of gulls wintering in Ile-de-France is between 50,000 and 100,000 individuals.

Between nesting and wintering

According to figures from the LPO, between 1,300 and 1,500 seagulls nest – and therefore stay year round – in Ile-de-France and mainly in Seine-et-Marne. They then sport a nuptial plumage, recognizable by their brown hood. “They nest in particular in the gravel pits located on the banks of the Marne or on the banks of the Seine, for example in the Bassée (natural wetland in the south-east of the Seine-et-Marne, on the border with the Aube, editor’s note)” , says Olivier Laporte.

According to the LPO, the first nestings of seagulls in Ile-de-France were observed in the Yvelines, in the 1960s. In Seine-et-Marne, the populations of black-headed gulls are later and date back to the beginning of the 1990s. Rarer, another species of gull – called melanocephalic – recognizable in spring by its black head and its eye circled in white is also present.

Black-headed gulls often gather around water points in Ile-de-France
Black-headed gulls often gather around water points in Ile-de-France (©Olivier Laporte/LPO Ile-de-France)

Some 300 pairs were identified in 2020 in the south of Seine-et-Marne, according to the LPO Ile-de-France. Be careful however, the ornithologist reminds us that the black-headed gull is often confused with its cousins, the gulls. “We must distinguish two species in the family of laridae: the black-headed gull, of small size, is the most frequent, but we also find gulls, more imposing and recognizable, in adulthood with their yellow beaks with a red spot . »

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Three main species of gulls are present all year round in Ile-de-France: “the herring gull, which comes from the coasts of the Atlantic and northern Europe, the yellow-legged gull – slightly darker – from Mediterranean or the brown gull”, list Olivier Laporte who specifies that the number of gulls is correlated with the severity of the winter.

These species already crossed in Ile-de-France

About fifteen species of seagulls and gulls have already been identified in Ile-de-France according to the League for the Protection of Ile-de-France Birds:
– the laughing gull: very common, it nests and winters in Ile-de-France.
– Mediterranean gull: rarer, it nests in Ile-de-France.
– the little gull: seen during migration.
– the kittiwake: seen after storms.
– Sabine’s gull: a single specimen of this species, native to Arctic Canada, was recorded in 2020 in Trilbardou.
– the common gull: a few specimens sometimes nest in the Yvelines.
– the herring gull: specimens nest in Paris and more recently in the inner suburbs: this species also winters in Ile-de-France.
– the yellow-legged gull: birds sometimes nest in Paris and they are also seen in summer near landfills.
– the brown gull: this specimen sometimes nests in Paris, but it often winters in Seine-et-Marne.
– the pontic gull: the species sometimes winters in Ile-de-France and a nesting individual has already been recorded in Paris.
– the black-backed gull: it sometimes winters in Ile-de-France.
– Glaucous gull and white-winged gull: rare species in Ile-de-France, but already observed in winter near landfills and around bodies of water.
Several very rare species have also been observed by an expert ornithologist, particularly in the north of Seine-et-Marne: Audouin’s gull,
the Véga gull (a single mention in France), the Baltic gull (subspecies of the brown gull), the kelp gull and
the ring-billed gull, two species from America.

And to add: “They come to Seine-et-Marne because of the presence of open-air landfills or recycling centers such as Soignolles-en-Brie or Claye-Souilly/Fresnes-sur-Marne/Charny where they easily find food. . »

No mixing in bodies of water…

They are also visible in the fields during the day, then return to the bodies of water to spend the night. But no question of mixing with the seagulls! Individuals form distinct groups on water bodies.

“Unlike the black-headed gulls, the gulls are mainly native to the coasts, but some nest in Ile-de-France concludes the LPO specialist… especially on the roofs in Paris. There are also a few couples in Yvelines or Seine-Saint-Denis. »

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