Two tiny north-east chicks have made history by becoming the first of their kind to be nested in Scotland – and the first to have successfully hatched anywhere in the UK.
The hatchlings, two examples of the world’s smallest species of gull, nested at RSPB Scotland’s Loch of Strathbeg nature reserve and are understood to be doing well.
RSPB Scotland Sites Manager Richard Humpidge said staff at the centre are on tenterhooks while they wait for the chicks to grow enough to take their first flight.
He said: “We were really excited to discover that the little gulls had successfully hatched.
“It wasn’t long ago that the island was home to just 10 pairs of common terns that struggled to raise any chicks.
“Four years, hundreds of hours of help from volunteers and 10 tons of shingle later, there’s now more than 130 pairs of terns with lots of large tern chicks and now we’ve got two tiny little gull chicks as well – a first for Britain. We are really pleased!”
Little gulls, as their Latin name Hydrocoloeus minutus suggests, are the smallest species of gull. Weighing not much more than a blackbird, they are often thought to more closely resemble terns than larger gulls.
They normally breed in northern Scandinavia, the Baltics, Russia and Siberia.
Breeding adults have jet black heads with a small dark bill, short red legs and dark smoky grey underwings that are unmistakable when the birds are in flight.
The visitor centre at Loch of Strathbeg is currently closed for renovations, but visitors can get great views of the nesting island through the viewing screen next to the car park. For more information about how to get to the reserve visit rspb.org.uk/lochofstrathbeg