CREDITS: I would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont for providing much of the history one can find on this site. He is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England. For a story on Jeremy or to visit his site (New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide), use the corresponding link in the right hand information bar under "Related Links".

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I have set up this site as a means to share my photographs of lighthouses. Since retiring and finding more time to study photography, my interests have expanded a little. For some of my work other than lighthouses please enjoy my Facebook page at, John Shaw Photography. Come visit, enjoy, and 'LIKE' if you wish.

Also, for your enjoyment, I have provided a slideshow of our journey. To view it please use the link on the right under 'Site Navigation Tools'.

I sincerely hope you enjoy my efforts and use my site not only for information and education but also to provide directions for many enjoyable, inspirational visits to the beacons along our beautiful coas.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The American Heron Gull

Soaring High
     The American Heron Gull is a large gull with a long powerful bill, full chest and sloping forehead.  Males are 23 - 26 inches long and weigh 37 - 44 ounces. Females are 22 - 24 inches long and weigh 28 - 35 ounces. The wingspan is 47 - 59 inches.
     Breeding adults have a white head, rump, tail and underparts and a pale gray back and upper wings. The wingtips are black with white spots known as "mirrors" and the rear edge of the wing is white. The underwing is grayish with dark tips to the outer primary feathers. The legs and feet are normally pink but can have a bluish tinge, or occasionally be yellow. The bill is yellow with a red spot on the lower mandible. The eye is bright, pale to medium yellow, with a bare yellow or orange ring around it. In winter, the head and neck are streaked with brown.

What's for Lunch
     Young birds take four years to reach fully adult plumage.  During this time they go through several plumage stages and can be very variable in appearance. First-winter birds are gray-brown with a dark tail, a brown rump with dark bars, dark outer primaries and pale inner primaries, dark eyes and a dark bill which usually develops a paler base through the winter. The head is often paler than the body. Second-winter birds typically have a pale eye, pale bill with black tip, pale head and begin to show gray feathers on the back. Third-winter birds are closer to adults but still have some black on the bill and brown on the body and wings and have a black band on the tail.
      It has no song but has a variety of cries and calls. The "long call" is a series of notes during which the head is dipped then raised. The "choking call" is produced during courtship displays or territorial disputes.  Juvenile birds emit high-pitched plaintive cries to elicit feeding behavior from a parent, and may also emit a clicking distress call when a parent suddenly flies off.
     The breeding range extends across the northern part of North America from central and southern Alaska to the Great Lakes, and north-east coast of the USA south to North Carolina. It breeds over most of Canada apart from the southwest and Arctic regions.
     Birds are present all year in southern Alaska, the Great Lakes and north-east USA but most birds winter to the south of the breeding range as far as Mexico with small numbers reaching Hawaii, Central America and the West Indies. Vagrants have reached Columbia and Venezuela and there is a report from Ecuador and another from Peru.  The first European record was of a bird ringed in New Brunswick which was caught on a boat in Spanish waters in 1937 and there are have a number of additional records from Western Europe since 1990.  The first British record was in 1994 in Cheshire.

Standing Watch
     It usually nests in colonies near water on coasts, islands and cliffs. It also nests on rooftops in some cities. It feeds at sea and on beaches, mudflats, lakes, rivers, fields and refuse dumps. It roosts in open areas close to feeding sites.
     It has a varied diet including marine Invertebrates such as Mussels, crabs, sea urchins, and squid, fish such as capelin, alewife and smelts, insects and other birds including their chicks and eggs. It often feeds on carrion and human refuse. Food is plucked from the surface of the shore or sea or is caught by dipping underwater or by shallow plunge-diving.

Viewing Tourists
    Pairs form in March or April. The nest is a scrape on the ground lined with vegetation such as grass and seaweed and with feathers.  Usually three eggs are laid over a four to six day period. They are 2.8 inches long and are variable in color with brown markings on a pale blue, olive or cinnamon background.  The eggs are incubated for 30–32 days beginning when the second egg is laid. The young birds fledged after 6–7 weeks and are fed in the nest area for several more weeks. They continue to be cared for by the parents until they are about 6 months old.  Both parents are involved in building the nest, incubating the eggs and feeding the young.  It has been observed that some pairs cement a close bond, staying in watchful proximity of each other year round; Other gulls display more independence, but may take the same mate each spring.

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