Australian Bush Birds
Kelp Gull  -  Larus dominicanus
kelp gull
Kelp Gull with white head, yellow bill with a red spot at the end of the lower mandible, and black and white body. (Port Fairy, Vic)
kelp gull kelp gull
This Kelp Gull has dug a crab out of the sand and is flying away with it to be eaten. The Kelp Gull has an all white tail visible in both of these photographs, but the Pacific Gull has a black band near the white tip. The kelp gull has olive-yellow legs distinguishing it from the yellow legs of the Pacific Gull. (Port Fairy, Vic)
map map The Kelp Gull - Larus dominicanus - is a large bird easily confused with the Pacific Gull. Both are black and white with white head and neck. Body and wings are black and white; the Kelp Gull has a longer and broader white trailing edge on the wings and an all-white tail (the Pacific Gull has a black band near the white tip of its tail). The folded wings of the Pacific Gull are all black while the Kelp Gull has narrow white bands across the black feathers. Both birds have a yellow beak, the Pacific Gull's is more solid and has a red dot at the outer end, usually on both upper and lower mandible; the Kelp Gull has a narrower yellow bill with a red dot at the end of the lower mandible only.

Male and female adults are similar, females are slightly smaller. Juveniles are mostly dark brown and mottled and achieve adult plumage after eight moultings. Juvenile Kelp Gulls have a distinctly more slender bill than juvenile Pacific Gull.

The Kelp Gull is a relatively recent arrival in Australia, probably from New Zealand. Its similarity to the Pacific Gull probably meant it was in Australia for many years before first being identified in 1943. The first nest was found in 1958 and the species has expanded its numbers and range since then.

Kelp Gull - page 2
Kelp Gulls are more versatile and more aggressive foragers than Pacific Gulls taking much the same kind of food: shellfish, eggs and chicks of other seabirds, crustaceans, fish and other marine life.

It is now found along the east and south-east coast from about Cairns south and west to the Head of the Australian Bight, including all around Tasmania. A separate distribution extends from Albany around the south-west to about Geraldton.

Breeding takes place along the New South Wales central coast and the Tasmanian east coast from September to December. The nest is a bulky structure of dried plant material about 120 millimetres high with an egg cavity on the top. The nest is built on the ground, often sheltered by a tussock or rock ledge. Two or three eggs are laid; green-grey, heavily speckled and blotched with red-brown, dark-brown and black; about 70 by 51 millimetres. Eggs are brooded by both parents; young hatch in 28 days, leave the nest after few days under parental protection and become self-sufficient by seven weeks; by then they can fly.