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How do gulls find out about new food sources so quickly?

Sent in by Mike Moore, St Helens, Lancashire

Because winds are stronger at higher altitudes - so less energy-expending flapping is required - gulls are often thousands of feet in the air. From such a vast height, and by using their keen eyesight, they have an excellent all-round view for many miles around. This allows them to exploit potential feeding opportunities very quickly.

There is also an interesting relationship between lapwings and gulls - especially black-headed gulls. Lapwings will breed on farmland and many spend a high proportion of the year in such a habitat, so are more likely to find food on ploughed fields before gulls do so.

The presence of feeding lapwings in a field indicates the presence of food to gulls overhead. Subsequently, feeding gulls attract more gulls, and so on!

During the autumn and winter months, many gulls are nomadic and can wander vast distances in search of food. A good example of this is a black-headed gull that was ringed as a nestling at Roxton, Bedfordshire, on 23 June 2001. The same bird - identified by birdwatchers from the unique number etched on a ring around the bird's leg - was subsequently reported near Klaipeda, Lithuania on 13 June 2003 - a distance of 923 miles (1,486 km). It's likely to have wandered between the Baltic and the UK on several occasions.

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