The Research

Great Black-backed Gulls on Appledore Island

Great Black-backed Gulls on Appledore Island

Dr. Julie Ellis began banding Herring Gulls and Great Black-Backed Gulls on Appledore Island, Maine in 2004. As a researcher at the Shoals Marine Lab, Dr. Ellis’ work focuses on the interactions between Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, their population trends in the Gulf of Maine, and the effects that these two species have on coastal marine communities of New England.

Dr. Ellis and long-time volunteer banding assistant Bill Clark set up a gull trap on Appledore Island.

Dr. Ellis and long-time volunteer banding assistant Bill Clark set up a gull trap.

Her banded birds have been re-sighted by members of the public as far south as Florida. Her research relies on people like you–birders, beachgoers, casual observers, to report banded birds, and photos are always welcome! You can read more about Dr. Ellis’ banding research at her research page through the Shoals Marine Lab.

You can report your sightings directly to this blog as a comment, or email Dr. Ellis at:


  1. Hi,

    I have 2 photographss of 2E2 taken on October 23, 2010 at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

    (click on the pictures for a larger version where you can clearly see the bands)

  2. […] been working since pre-history on a gull banding project out on Appledore Island in southern Maine. Her study, involving both Herring Gulls and Great Black-Backed Gulls, requires a couple rounds of bird […]

  3. I took a picture of two gulls fighting over a crab, when i looked a the picture after i noticed a band around its leg , it is C17 it was on Hampton beach 8-17-11 is this of any importance.

  4. I took a picture of a gull today at Hampton beach the gull had a green band with white letters L56 on it ,, is this of any importance thanks

  5. I have no idea if this is related to your project but on 5/30/2012 I saw what I believe was a juvenile herring gull with a green leg band, # K82.

    • Ha – forgot to say WHERE I saw K82 — Misquamacut Beach in Rhode Island.

    • Hi Karen! Thanks for this report – the bird was banded last summer as a chick on Appledore Island, so this is its first resight off the island! Thanks very much for this information. Please feel free to send more resights our way. Take care! julie

  6. I photographed a young herring gull today at Cape May Point State Park in New Jersey today (7/2/2012) with a green K58 band as well as a USGS band that I could not read. I’m curious about where this bird came from.

    • Hey Tiffany! This bird was banded as a chick on Appledore in July, 2011. This is the first time it has been resighted – so interesting to know it is in Cape May! Thanks very much for your report. Feel free to send more my way. Best wishes, julie

  7. Exciting! It is very interesting to see where these birds are traveling. Thanks for your work, Julie.

  8. Hi! I protect beach nesting birds in NJ and today at one of my sites, I saw a Black Back Gull with a black band, white letters – 2C2. He had a back left foot, it was totally curled under, but he walked on it kind of like it was a stump. I would love to know the history of this bird. He was seen this afternoon in Sea Bright, NJ, which is near Sandy Hook.
    Thanks! Pam

  9. Hi Good afternoon, I have been been feeding a seagull for several years and he is tagged with a black tag with yellow writing, similar to HO2, although I am still trying to get a good look to confirm. I write asking if this could be one of your birds. I live in Bristol, England, Great Britain.

  10. Hi,

    I think I sighted another of your juv herring gulls today, 9/14/12, on Little Beach Island, E.B. Forsythe NWR, New Jersey. R01 dark green band on left leg with silver BBL band, partial sequence of 767202 on the right leg. He/she was enjoying a blue crab. I have photos if you’d like them.


    • Tiffany, I saw the same gull today on North Brigantine Beach. He/She was eating a crab it just caught in the ocean. I have a picture of it.

      • Hi Gina!

        Not sure which gull you are referring to – would you please send the photo? Thanks! Julie

  11. Hello,
    On December 5th, 2012, I found a Great Black Backed Gull with a black band 7E3 on the left leg and a silver band on the right. I photographed the bird on the beach in Pt. Pleasant, NJ on the south side of the Manasquan Inlet.

  12. Not sure if it’s one of yours. On 12/16/12 we took a photo of a Gull…sorry don’t know what kind, on Fort Myers Beach in Florida. It had two bands. One was green with X25 and the other was a silver metal one, the word Call and a couple numbers could only be identified. I’d love to send you a picture if you let me know how. Is it one of yours? If so, can you tell me about it? Thanks much!

  13. Hi, I’m a commercial fisherman out of New Bedford, MA. On January 28th I spotted a seagull tagged 4V9 at George’s Banks coordinates 40 53.08N, 66 52.66W

    • Thanks for your resight! 4V9 is a Great Black-backed gull that was banded as a chick on Appledore, Maine on July 17, 2012. He or she was seen again 5 days later on Appledore but hasn’t been seen since. Great to know 4V9 is still alive and well!

  14. Wow, pretty cool. Ive seen some other banded seagulls before but never knew where to report them. I see any others, I’ll let you know and try to get pictures.

  15. […] we look toward the summer, our own Dr. Julie Ellis is gearing up for the year’s field season on Appledore Island in Maine. Appledore is the site of the Shoals Marine Lab, jointly run by […]

  16. Greetings, I am here on Fort Myers Beach in Florida and spotted a gull with a bright red band on his leg on the beach (with other, non-banded gulls). I wonder if this if an Appledore Island gull…and if so, what a coincidence as my family is very connected with Star Island. From, Jean Fuller Gest

    • Hi Jean! this is not an Appledore gull, but I’ll ask around to see if I can find the source. But, so glad you wrote us! I’ve spent many years at the Shoals and it’s really a home-away-from-home for me. Always good to hear from someone with connections out there. Keep your eyes peeled for other banded gulls – you might find one of ours! Best wishes, Julie

  17. 6/17/13 15:29 Hampton Beach State Park, Herring Gull green band N87 feeding on beach in a group of immature gulls and adults.

  18. Hi! We were on the beach at dcr; department of conservation & reservation; in Salisbury MA on July 17 and my son spotted R92 green band on a seagull and was wondering where it came from. I found your site on the Internet & we wanted to tell that we saw it if it will help with your research!

    • Hello Caralee! this is one of our gulls – thanks so much for the report! It was banded as a chick in July 2012 and this is the first time it’s been seen off the island. So, this is a great data point for us. If you have a photograph, would you please send it along? Best wishes, Julie

  19. I saw a juvenile black backed gull today in Monmouth Beach, NJ. It had a black band with white letters – 9X4. Would love to know if this is one of your banded birds.

    • Hello! Thanks for the resight – this does sound like one of our birds. 9X4 was banded as a chick in July 2012 and this is the first time it has been observed off the island! And, so interesting that it was in NJ! Thanks very much for reporting this and please feel free to send any additional resights out way. Did you happen to take a photograph? Best wishes, Julie

  20. I photographed a black backed gull on Wildwood Beach in New Jersey on August 5, 2013, Tag 3K1. I would love to know when he was tagged.

    • Hi Jill! Thanks for the resight! 3K1 was banded as an adult in 2010 and has been seen every summer since then on Appledore. A real “regular.” We know this bird is at least 8 yrs old, but could be older. We have 17 previous resights of banded gulls in coastal NJ, mostly Great Black-backed Gulls (rather than Herring Gulls) for some reason. Would you please send your photo of the bird to me at Thanks!!

  21. I have seen L51 (once) and C47 (several times) at Hampton Beach (south bath house area) in August. C47 is not shy, at all. He/she comes right up to your chair. Will try to get some pictures.

    • Hi Sharon!

      Are you the same Sharon who reported 7A3? L51 was banded as a chick in 2011 then seen at Hampton Beach in April 2012 and Feb 2013, then several times on Appledore during the summer of 2013. This is a great report as we now know that the bird is still alive and is a regular at Hampton! C47 was banded as a chick in 2005 and was later seen at Jenness Beach, NH in 2008, 2009, 2010. This bird has also been a regular at the island since it was banded, having been observed during the summer in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013. Because the bird was banded as a chick, we know that it is now 8 yrs old. This is important information as it enables us to calculate survival rates for these birds. Thanks very much for these reports!

      • Hi Julie

        No I am not the Sharon that reported 7A3. 8/11 is the date from the posting on 8/15, C17-noticed a bit of a limp for this bird

        On the dates listed below, I saw the following birds.

        8/19 R47, C47 & C17

        8/20 C17 & L51

        8/21 black tag 4P4

        8/25 M92, R47, L51, L52, C47 & C17-limp was a bit better.

        I noticed C47 has less feathers around the eyes, is that do to age, illness or genetics?

        Thank you for the information on the gulls.

        I have a couple more days at the beach coming up and will let you know which gulls show up.


      • Hi Sharon! Thanks very much for all the resights!
        R47 was banded as a chick in 2012 and has been seen at Hampton several times during the year since.
        C17 was banded as a chick in 2005 so it’s 8 yrs old and it’s been resighted on Appledore and coastal NH 54 times since!
        4P4 was banded as an adult in 2010 and has returned to Appledore every year since. Yours is the first time this bird has been seen off the island.
        M92 was banded as a chick in 2012 and has been seen at Hampton a few times since then.
        L52 was banded as a chick in 2011 and was seen on Appledore this summer and at Hampton several times in the past year.

        Thanks for the resights! If you have the opportunity, please take digital photos and send them along – we like to have photos of the birds for our archives and for a project we’re working on to get pics of known-age birds for the purpose of helping people learn to ID gulls of various ages. Thanks! Julie

  22. Hello all! I recently had a sighting of a 2nd Winter GBBG, marked with a dark green marker labelled ‘5T9′. I reported it to the USGS Banded Bird Reporting website and, on the Certificate of Appreciation that was received, it gave me all of the info for the Gull. 5T9 was banded on July 12th, 2011 by Dr. Morris. I saw it on Parker River National Wildlife Refuge/Sandy Point State Reservation on the 19th of August. Hopefully I will be able to find a few more of your friends in the future!

    • Hello Joseph!
      Thanks for the resight – this bird was banded, as you say, in 2011 and was seen one other time at Sandy Point State Park in Aug 2012. This is great information as we now know that this bird has survived its first year, we know one off-island location where it “hangs out,” and we can now wait and see if this bird returns to nest on Appledore. Thanks very much! Let us know if you see any more of our birds. Also, we love to receive photos of the birds. Best wishes, Julie

  23. Great Black-backed Gull 2E2 at Lot 7 at Parker River National Wildlife on October 17, 2013–he was cracking clams, and trying to chase off Herring Gulls that were trying (with some success) to steal the results of his hard work!

    Great Black-backed Gull 2E2

    • Hi Chris!

      2E2 is one of our “old timers” – he was banded as an adult in May 2006 and has been observed at or near Plum Island every winter since! He really likes that area for an overwintering site. I’ve added your report to our database – it’s great to know he’s alive and at his favorite wintering site. Please feel free to send additional reports of banded birds if you come across more! The data really help in our studies. Best wishes, Julie

  24. Hello,

    On 12/5/13 I spotted a banded immature Herring Gull at Hedgehog Pond in Salem, NH. This is a local ‘mini hotspot’ for gulls (next door to a small landfill). The green tag on the leg read: “R03″.

    You can find pictures here:

    • Hi Kyle!

      thanks for this report – R03 was banded on Appledore as a chick in July 2012. this is the first time the bird has been observed off the island! very cool. good to know it’s still alive. Do you have any close-up photos of the bird? Thanks again and happy holidays! Best wishes, Julie

  25. HI! I took a picture of a seagull (I don’t know what type) with band 3AF. I saw this bird on December 12, 2013 at Canaveral National Seashore, FL. Is this one of yours?

    • Hi Laura! Do you recall the color of the band and the lettering? This might be one of mine – however, my bands are either a letter-number-number combination or a number-letter-number. In your case, the band was a number-letter-letter combination, which may be a bird from someone else’s project. So, if you can tell me the color of the band you saw, I might be able to track this down. Thanks for the report!! Best wishes, Julie

      • Julie, HI! According to the USGS the gull I saw was a Ring-Billed Gull banded by Jean Giroux – University of Quebec-Montreal.
        Happy New Year! Laura

    • Hi Laura!

      can you tell me what color the band and letters were? My bands have either a letter-number-letter combination or a letter-number-number combination. The band you describe is a number-letter-letter combo, which means it may belong to someone else’s project. If you can tell me the color combination I might be able to determine who banded this bird. Thanks!! Best wishes, Julie

  26. Hi,

    I came across Great Black-backed Gull 2E2 today, 1/12/14, on the beach outside Lot 7 at Parker River NWR. Seems like he’s been seen here often!

    • Hi Yianni! yes, 2E2 is a “regular” at that site during the winter – he returns there EVERY winter! He was originally banded as an adult in 2006, so is at least 13 years old (we guess that Great Black-backed Gulls are around 5 yrs when they start breeding). Thanks very much for the report! Best wishes, Julie

  27. Hi on the morn. of 1/21/14 I was feeding a good looking young gull at Pierce Island in Portsmith N.H it had a green ban with L49 on it. is it one from the Shoals ?

    • Hi Don!

      Yes, this is one of our birds. L49 was banded as a chick at its nest in July 2011. It was seen at New Castle Municipal Beach in April 2013, and then seen again by you. Looks like it’s settling in the area. Thanks so much for your resight! If you happened to take any photos, you can send them to my email at

  28. Herring Gull

    Herring Gull X78 at Seabrook Harbor 2/4/2014. Incidentally noticed this banded bird when reviewing photos I’d shot of a flock, so photo’s not that great!

    • Thanks Chris! That bird was banded on Appledore as an adult in 2013 and yours is the first sighting of it since then! Thank you!

  29. HI,
    On 2-1614 I photographed Y95 in Lowell Mass on the Merrimack River. Is this your bird? This gull has strange, or should I say not typical Herring Gull plumage, so I am inclined to think it might not be an Appledore bird. If you like I can send you a photo.
    Suzanne Sullivan

  30. We saw T47 today at Jenness Beach in Rye, NH. He was looking very healthy!

    • Thanks for the sighting! Now he’s out here on Appledore nesting!

  31. I saw Great Black-backed Gull 5T9 at Sandy Point Reservation on Plum Island on May 26, 2014. I see from the comments above it has been seen there before. There was another Gull associating closely with it. They appeared to be engaged in courtship behavior walking down the beach side by side. Photo here:

    Banded Great Black-backed Gull

    • Thanks for the sighting and for the great pic! That bird was banded as a chick in 2011, and yes, seems to enjoy the beach there at Sandy Point!

  32. Hi again,

    So I was browsing the new gull videos on Youtube today – and it seems that someone has found one of your babies in Texas…

  33. Just saw a seagull with a green R47 band on Hampton Beach. Never noticed that seagulls were tagged before :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: