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Dear Long Island birders,

If anyone has seen any ring-billed, herring or black-back gulls with colored wing tags we would like to know!!

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is continuing its gull study at the Wachusett and Quabbin Reservoirs.  A variety of birds utilize the reservoirs for breeding, migratory stops, roosting, and feeding. Some species (i.e. common loons) occur in such low numbers that they pose little threat to water quality.  However, other species (i.e. gulls, ducks and geese) can concentrate in large numbers for an extended period of time.  These large groups can have an impact on water quality.  Very little in known about wintering gulls.  As part of our gull program we are conducting research related to movements of three species of gulls (ring-billed, herring and black-backed gulls).

This research program is set up to address these questions:

    1. What and where are the seasonal food resources for each gull species?

    2. What are the seasonal movement patterns between feeding and roosting sites, between

        reservoirs, and between reservoirs and “alternate roosts”?

    3. What are the population dynamics of gulls in Massachusetts?

        a. Where do they nest?

        b. Sources of mortality?

        c. Lifespan?

Again, this year, we ask for your help.  Last year we tagged over 330 gulls in the Wachusett and Quabbin areas.  These gulls are being seen now on Long Island, Brooklyn and other areas near the city; as areas in MA freeze over, they are heading south.  Each gull was banded and tagged.  The tags we use are colored wing (or patagial) tags.  To see what a tagged gull looks like, please visit:

They can be seen from a distance and sometimes with the naked eye (without binocs).  We got a lot of re-sightings from birders and from the federal bird banding lab.  We had sightings from Worcester to Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada (breeding this summer) to all the way down in Florida.  These sightings are very important to us.  

If you do see a wing tagged bird, please try to get the alpha-numeric combination on the tag (e.g. A57) and report it to us using my contact information below.  Common places they are seen are at landfills, beaches, parking lots and ball fields.  So while you are out there birding, grocery shopping or at the kids soccer game, keep a look out for any of our birds.  I will be happy to provide you with specifics about the bird like where and when it was caught.

Please pass the word.  Thanks in advance for your help.



Ken MacKenzie


Senior Wildlife Biologist

Department of Conservation and Recreation

Natural Resource Section

180 Beaman St

West Boylston, MA 01583

508-792-7423 x313 / 508-792-7805 (fax)