Caught in the sunlight as they swoop in over the river, the young gulls look dazzling white. When they are lined up along the quay wall (where they like to hang out when they’ve got nothing better to do) you can see that these almost-grown-up birds still have patches of mottled, adolescent brown feathers under their smart new grey and white coats.
The river is still full and choppy after recent rain, but the water is no longer a muddy brown. The low sunlight was highlighting the restless surface of the water when I took these photos. Although the birds are framed in the middle of each image, light and water take centre stage.
In French these are mouettes rieuses or laughing gulls. In English they are black-headed gulls but as even the adults have white head feathers in winter that name seems designed to confuse. In Latin they are Chroicocephalus ridibundus, the second part of which means laughing. Just to add to the confusion there’s an American bird known as the laughing gull but that’s a completely different species and a rare visitor in Europe.
Whatever they are called, these aren’t sea gulls. Although they like fish and will take a trip to the sea in summer, the mouettes are birds of river, lake and field for the rest of the year. They’ve been resident in Paris since early in the twentieth century, content to nest on city roof tops, to snack on crumbs and earth worms in the Luxembourg Gardens and to hang out along the quays of the Seine.
(Click on any photo to view the gallery)