Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Southern black-backed gull

with 18 comments

Southern Black-Backed Gull with Stargazer 5949

On February 20th along the Wellington foreshore we noticed that a bird (which turned out to be an immature southern black-backed gull, Larus dominicanus) had found a fish (which turned out to be a spotted stargazer, Genyagnus monopterygius). At first glance the fish seemed dead, but as the gull kept pecking and pulling at it, the fish occasionally wriggled and proved that it was still alive, even if its stargazing nights were clearly over. To say that surviving in a state of nature isn’t always fun is an understatement.

Thanks to Dr. Colin Miskelly, Curator for Terrestrial Vertebrates at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, for confirming that the bird is an immature southern black-backed gull and for identifying the spotted stargazer. Dr. Miskelly hosts a blog dealing with New Zealand’s animals, and by coincidence a recent post showed southern black-backed gull egg and chick.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 15, 2015 at 5:32 AM

18 Responses

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  1. superb


    May 15, 2015 at 8:23 AM

  2. As a newcomer to viewing your excellent photos, I must say that as a nature enthusiast I thoroughly enjoy your commentary and your wit. Looking forward to more.

    Jean Wilson

    May 15, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    • Welcome, fellow nature enthusiast, and thanks for your appreciation of pictures and words. I look forward to more of what’s out there too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 15, 2015 at 10:37 AM

  3. Una imagen maravillosamente perfecta. Gracias!

  4. Great capture. We have a lot of these seabirds over at Ahuriri in Napier.

    Raewyn's Photos

    May 15, 2015 at 5:13 PM

    • I’ll bet you do, given your location on the coast. That’s one more reason I’m sorry I didn’t make it to your area this time around.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 15, 2015 at 8:03 PM

  5. So, I’ve learned a new word, as well as a new bird. I’ve never heard or read “foreshore”: at least, that I remember. I know the area it describes, of course, but usually would call it the intertidal zone, or use “littoral.” I’m wondering if “foreshore” is British English.

    I so enjoy watching birds feed, especially the young ones who still are learning the skills. On the other hand, I just read an article about this species’s diet, and I must say, they’re close to ominivores, like our gulls. It’s really a wonderful photo.


    May 15, 2015 at 7:35 PM

    • The word foreshore was new to me too, but I kept encountering it in New Zealand so I slipped it into this post for some local color. New Zealand English has a bunch of Britishisms that didn’t make it into (or didn’t survive in) American English.

      I think you have a lot more chance near the coast to watch birds feeding than I do here, or maybe it’s just that I don’t pay as much attention. In the case of this gull and the stargazer, it would have been hard not to keep looking, and after a short while I accumulated several dozen pictures. In fact I ended up photographing more than one gull dealing with the fish, though only one bird at a time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 15, 2015 at 7:55 PM

  6. Though I readily admit to a love of stargazing, I’m grateful that my lot, this time around, in a Buddhist sense, didn’t land me among these stargazers, to be pecked at rather mercilessly in the waning existence of the cycle. Your inclusion of references to the resourceful expert who helped in the identification is welcome and refreshing. It’s a wonderful photo, Steve, and another fine example of what we are attracted to the shore for.


    May 15, 2015 at 10:02 PM

    • Ah yes, I would gladly have spent much more time along the shores of Aotearoa, which provided me with so many photographs on this trip.

      When people or written sources identify things for me, I always (I hope) give them credit and provide a link to an appropriate website if there is one. I know it’s common on the Internet for people to cite things without attribution, and often even without quotation marks, but I do my best to uphold a better tradition.

      This fish aside, there are other kinds of stargazing you can keep on practicing, and they won’t foreshadow your demise.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 15, 2015 at 10:14 PM

  7. Once again, nice timing. And great luck to happen across the blog with a post of an immature of this species.

    Steve Gingold

    May 17, 2015 at 6:28 PM

    • Yes, it was good timing. I put on my longest lens and took lots of pictures. I discovered the other blog shortly before I sent out this post, which had been sitting in the queue for some time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2015 at 7:38 PM

  8. Magnifcent photograph, Steve. I can’t recall when a gull of any type has so captured my attention.

    Susan Scheid

    May 17, 2015 at 7:47 PM

    • I wish I could whisk you over there in my time machine, Susan, so you could see it live for yourself.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 17, 2015 at 7:54 PM

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