It seems like just yesterday that these herring gull chicks were born. They live outside of Hamilton, where the main office on Appledore is located, so everyone who ran into me that day made sure I knew the chicks had hatched; I had to tell them that while that’s great news and they sure are cute, I only monitor the nests of black-backed gulls!
In reality, these chicks are about two weeks old. Even without passing them every day and watching them grow up, you can guess a chick’s age based on the extent of the coloration and covering of their contour feathers, which cover the surface of their body.
Herring gull eggs hatch after 30-32 days of incubation. The chicks will then replace their down with feathers. After 42-48 days, they will be able to fly, or have fledged. Most fledging occurs in late July to early August. Though the two species are similar, black-backed chicks grow a little differently than herrings. They hatch from their eggs 21-28 days after incubation, and their time to fledging has been described as anywhere from 30-40 days to 7-8 weeks.
Chicks of both species will pass through several distinct plumage stages over the next four years before reaching adulthood and hopefully returning to Appledore to breed! Our next week has been dubbed “Chick Banding Week”: we will have a team of researchers, students, and volunteers working together to get bands on this year’s chicks before they are able to fly and we lose our chance!