• David Callahan


My dramatic photo of a Black-billed Gull colony on the wrecked foundations of an earthquake-damaged office block in Christchurch, New Zealand, has been featured as a double-page spread in this month's Birdwatch magazine. I also wrote the accompanying text.

The species is considered the world's most threatened after a catastrophic 70–80% decline over the last few decades, and first established itself on the damaged foundations of the former Price Waterhouse Cooper building on Armagh Street in the centre of the city in 2018.

There are about 130 Black-billed Gull (tarāpuka in Maori) nests in the colony, along with a few of the commoner Red-billed Gull. The sites has become popular with residents and tourists alike, particularly as the daily tribulations and successes of the parent birds and chicks can be observed from the pavement through grilles in the fence. When we were there, we met commuters and a local bishop, all keeping tabs on how the colony was doing.

Here's the original double-page spread in pdf form:

Big Picture_BirdwatchMar20
Download PDF • 2.41MB

The owners of the site seem determined to discourage the gulls this coming year. You can sign a petition to help save the colony at: https://our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/save-the-christchurch-central-city-black-billed-gull-colony-from-destruction.

More photos from my two visits to the site can be seen below ...

Passers-by can pick their favourite gull nest and follow the family's story from mating to fledging.

All aspects of the gulls' behaviour can be closely observed from the street.

Rafts have been placed in the flooded basement to ensure that the gulls' chicks can be saved and parented if they fall from the nest (as many do).

It can be hot work growing up in an ad hoc earthquake gull colony.

Some of the nests are very prominently placed, probably owing to the absence of predators in Christchurch.


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