Saturday, March 22, 2014

Kelp Gulls & Little Penguins, The Nobbies, Phillip Island

While Australia's endemic Pacific gull is the most common large gull seen around Southern Victoria I read that the Kelp gull Larus dominicanus has been moving in on its territory since the 1940s. Kelp gulls breed on many Southern Hemisphere coasts. In Australia they compete with Pacific gull as they share similar habitat, diet and behaviours (including dropping molluscs from a height to smash them).

It was a long time before I started to recognise that not all the large gulls I was seeing were Pacific gulls. I have since become aware that a particular rock stack at The Nobbies on Phillip Island is a popular site for Kelp gull which actually breed there.

Here are some shots taken on a recent dull Saturday.

Kelp gull, The Nobbies, Phillip Island
Kelp Gull, Legs and bill colour much more insipid than Pacific Gull
I wonder who is studying these guys?
Phillip Island is well-known locally for its Little penguin colony. Man-made nesting boxes seem popular at The Nobbies (both for the penguins and interested humans who watch from boardwalks). I think this must be a moulting phase for many penguins as the kids counted some 32 penguins on our visit.

Little penguin, The Nobbies, Phillip Island
"The Nobbies". On the horizon at far left is Seal Rocks …. 
…home to a colony of Australian Fur seals (you can just make the seals out in the above photo)
A Cape Barren Goose begrudgingly left the road as we drove back (iPhone shot from the car window)
Bird on!


  1. good to see the Kelp gull; I have seen it on blogs but never for myself. You can be sure BirdLife Australia would know who to contact re the ring, but since there is no identify-able markings on it, perhaps just the ring colour alone doesn't denote much information. It is interesting to know where they have flown from, or when/where they were tagged. Good to see the penguins make use of the nesting boxes provided for them too. Another lovely post Pete.

  2. Makes me think it's time to go back and visit!

  3. I was very fortunate to see Little Penguins when I visited Australia, but never a Kelp Gull. I have seen them, however, in South Africa and in Chile. In Patagonia they had become very proficient at dropping shellfish onto rock to break open the shell and thereby gain access to the juicy meat inside.

  4. I've never seen these, Pete. I'm coming down to the MP in May for almost 2 weeks. I'd love to catch up and do a birding shoot if possible.