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Armenian Gull

Larus armenicus

CONSERVATION STATUS.   

During last decade the population is stable, although in past it was showing significant decrease of breeding success and some decline of overall population, resulted by decrease of water level at the Lake Sevan and appearing access to the breeding area of the species – so called Gull Island.

HABITAT.

The breeding habitat are islands inside the major lakes, like Lake Sevan and water reservoirs, like Lake Arpi. The major requirements here are good isolation of the island from the coastal line and sufficient food supply for this colonial species. Beside that the non-breeding individuals occur at every water body and at the large dump sites.

FEEDING BEHAVIOR.

The species has three major foraging patterns: active hunting from the water surface, catching the fish by the beak; searching for the dead fish at the shoreline; and feeding at various garbage and dump sites. It sometimes is being fed by the tourists, however this barely can be considered as a major pattern.

 

EGGS. 

1-4. Greenish-brown with brown spots. Incubation takes place by both sexes, 36-42 days. Young: the young stay in the nest until their ability to fly, which takes place about 50-60 days. Both parents feed young and during first 25-30 days one of the parents constantly guards the young, as in colony the conflicts are unavoidable and unattended nestlings might be killed by peers.

YOUNG.

After first flight the nestling continues staying with the parents for other 30-50 days, and later it joins the colony as an independent individual.

DIET.

Its diet consists primarily of fish and human food remains, although it is also known for taking terrestrial invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles and rodents.

NESTING.

First breeds at age of 4-5 years. The nest is a loosely constructed structure of dry herbaceous vegetation, spaced sometimes as close as 1-2 m but usually more apart, and located among stones and grass, sometimes under rocks or bushes, if the landscape permits. Nest is constructed by both sexes.

MIGRATION.

Armenian Gull is a partial migrant. While the population of Lake Arpi migrates completely as the Lake freezes every year, the population of Lake Sevan migrates partially, as the residential part finds food at the dump sites of numerous settlements around the Lake. Most of the species undergoes short-distance migration to the Ararat Plain, where finds an open water and additional dump sites, or further to the coasts of Turkey, Lebanon and Israel.

DISTRIBUTION.

The species breeds from Armenia and Georgia, to western Turkey and north-west Iran, wintering south to the eastern Mediterranean, northern Red Sea and northern Persian Gulf.

CONSERVATION MEASURES.

The species is evaluated as Near Threatened in IUCN Red List, and as Vulnerable VU B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii) in the Red Book of Animals of Armenia (2010). The species is not included in the Appendices of CITES and Bern  Conventions. The breeding Range of Armenian Gulls in Armenia is fully covered by Lake Sevan and Lake Arpi National Parks, and sufficient Emerald Sites. The existing conservation measures in frames of regimes of the National Parks appear to be sufficient for the protection of nesting places. However the threats can emerge due to Armenian Gulls’ feeding behavior at the dump sites, where due to lack of separate garbage collection electronic devises and batteries are wasted together with food remains thus creating potential contamination of the food remains by heavy metals, which can cause poisoning through accumulating effect. At migration and wintering at the fish-farms of Ararat Plain, the species could be occasionally or intentionally poached. Therefore the proposed conservation measures include: (1) development of separate waste collection and management systems in the country; (2) raising awareness among hunters about value of the species as Red Listed Bird and one of the symbols of Armenia.

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