Wellington Airport to study black-backed gull

3 Dec 2018

Wellington Airport in collaboration with Wellington, Hutt City and Porirua councils, Victoria University and the Department of Conservation, is to track the movement of black-backed gulls in Wellington by marking them with special dye as part of a programme to study bird movement and prevent bird-strike.

The gulls will be painted with a non-toxic dye at the Southern, Spicers (Porirua) and Silverstream landfills to help better understand the species, their habitat, migration and flight patterns. Southern landfill birds will be marked orange, while Spicers landfill birds marked green and Silverstream landfill birds blue.

The four-week study, which is the first of its kind in New Zealand, will also see the birds’ nesting and migrating movement patterns tracked by GPS. The food grade-quality dye is not harmful to the birds and is designed to wash off after a period of two to four weeks.

Black-backed gulls are a species native to a number of countries including New Zealand but their numbers have been boosted artificially by their habit of scavenging on human scraps. The gulls are often considered a threat to other native seabirds and waders.

If you've seen the colour-marked black-backed gulls, head here to report your sighting.