- Audouin's Gull in Spain - Image by Frank Schulz
The Audouin’s Gull has been on the ‘threatened’ list of the IUCN Red List for some time but thanks to careful conservation, the bird is gradually recovering its numbers. The gull is mainly found in the Mediterranean area and in one particular spot, conservationists are thrilled to see their work coming to fruition.
Breeding Site at Torrevieja Salt Lake
The salt lakes (or Salinas in Spanish) near the town of Torrevieja in Alicante Province, southern Spain have been a magnet for wildlife for centuries. One of the lakes has been made a wild life preserve and , according to a survey by the Conselleria de Infraestructuras y Medio Ambiente (Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment), there were a total of 3, 346 pairs of the bird nesting in the salt lake during the breeding season of 2011. The lake has become a bird lover’s paradise, with special bird watching posts set up around the edges and an information centre with a live camera feed to the sites where the gulls, and many other birds, are breeding.
About the Gull
The Audouin’s Gull was first identified and named in 1826. It is believed that there are approximately 58,000 mature adults currently in the wild. The bird is medium sized and is pale grey in colour with a white head. It has an unusual beak which is dark red with a pale tip, which helps birdwatchers distinguish it from other more common gulls. The birds breed in the Mediterranean, with the vast majority choosing Spain, although some can be found in Greece, Italy and Portugal. They travel to the North African coast for the winter, heading to Libya, Gambia and Senegal.
The Audouin’s Gull diet is fish and it can be seen following fishing trawlers as they come back in to port with their catch. It is the change in fishing patterns and the reduction in numbers of the particular type of fish that they like to eat that led to the species becoming threatened. In 1975, the species had reached an all time low in numbers but LIFE nature projects that have been in place since 1992 have helped the bird recover. The bird is also threatened by other species of gulls and by peregrine falcons, herons and snakes.
It is a triumph for the nature reserve at the salt lake in Torrevieja which has also seen an increase in breeding numbers of other rare birds such as Montagu’s Harriers and the local species of Flamingo. Great care has been taken to make the lake accessible to the public, with picnic areas etc but it has been done in such a way as to ensure the complete safety and privacy of the breeding birds. Its a perfect blend of nature and humanity, with benefits for both.