New breed of gull now raising its chicks on our shores
It's official – Northern Ireland now has a new breeding bird.
The Mediterranean gull is our newest breeding bird species after keen-eyed observers spotted two fledged young close to a nest on an island on Strangford Lough.
The bird has been present in Northern Ireland for up to 15 years now and pairs have been spotted nesting on a number of occasions, but this is the first time it has been confirmed to fledge young.
Andrew Upton of the National Trust, which monitors seabird populations on Strangford Lough, said it had suspected for some time that the Mediterranean gull was breeding there, but had never been able to prove it before.
"It's a bird that in the last couple of decades has really spread north. It used to be a more southern European species, but it's probably linked to climate change that this birds has moved north," he said.
"This year we had two pairs breeding on Strangford Lough on two different islands.
"It was a couple of weeks ago, in early July. We witnessed two young ones that were definitely fledged.
"Like most seabirds, they are relatively long-lived and will live 20 years or more. These birds have gradually been colonising the UK – there are big colonies in the south or England and they are spreading northwards and into Ireland.
"There are others breeding in Larne Lough. There are still very small numbers but it's a species we can expect to see gradually increasing.
"If the young are successful they are likely to come back to where they have been reared.
"It's not easy to identify them but you do see them around the coast here in ones and twos. They will hang around in the lough all -year round."