Great Black-backed Gull #1997-12641

On the evening of December 21st, I was birding at the Newburgh Waterfront. While I was there, I located a Great Black-backed Gull with a black band on its left leg. Through my spotting scope I could see that it read, in white print: 4RO. I reported it at the U.S. Geological Survey’s, and on Tuesday of this week I received an email with the subject line of ‘Certificate of Appreciation’.

The certificate indicates that this gull, of unknown sex, was hatched in 2008 or earlier. That means this bird is at least 12 years old! I’m not sure what the life expectancy of gulls is, but I found it interesting that the bird was that old. It was banded on Appledore Island in York County, Maine by Dr. Sara R. Morris.

The body of the email read as follows:

The North American Bird Banding Program

Bird banding is important for studying the movement, survival and behavior of birds. About 60 million birds representing hundreds of species have been banded in North America since 1904. About 4 million bands have been recovered and reported.

Data from banded birds are used in monitoring populations, setting hunting regulations, restoring endangered species, studying effects of environmental contaminants, and addressing such issues as Avian Influenza, bird hazards at airports, and crop depredations. Results from banding studies support national and international bird conservation programs such as Partners in Flight, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, and Wetlands for the Americas.

The North American Bird Banding Program is under the general direction of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Cooperators include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mexico’s National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity and Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources; other federal, state and provincial conservation agencies; universities; amateur ornithologists; bird observatories; nature centers; nongovernmental organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the National Audubon Society; environmental consulting firms and other private sector businesses. However, the most important partner in this cooperative venture is you, the person who voluntarily reported a recovered band. Thank you for your help.

U.S. Geological Survey
Canadian Wildlife Service

Please Report Bands at

7 thoughts on “Great Black-backed Gull #1997-12641”

  1. Thanks, Matt, for taking down the info, for reporting it and then for telling us the results. Over the years I have reported band numbers from legs and necks and I’m always interested in the whens and wheres and how olds when I get the replies. And they ALWAYS reply and rather quickly too. Your reporting the story will encourage others to do the same and then more and more is learned.

    Thanks for setting the example.

    1. It was the first time I’ve done it Ken, and I found it really interesting and satisfying. I look forward to finding more banded birds in the future; you never know what we might find out. Matt

  2. Interesting account of the banded great black backed. Was out yesterday morning and got interesting photos of the Sandhills in the thick fog . Later in the day got good shots of a barred owl in the Great Swwmp

  3. Was out a few minutes this afternoon and had a good number of rusty blackbirds and immature red headed woodpecker

    1. I got out this weekend both days, but didn’t have much luck. My best birds were a pair of Lapland Longspurs in the black dirt on Saturday. Thanks for checking in, Bruce. Matt

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