Growing up on the coast, seagulls have been a part of my landscape always. In fact, they have been so omnipresent that I almost ignore them.
However, they deserve recognition. They are pretty large birds who provide more than ambiance to the coast.
Gulls are large, ground nesting carnivores. They can be seen fishing or scavenging alike, and are known to many beachy communities as being bossy and sneaky, walking quite adeptly with their famous side to side waddle on big webbed feet. They are also accomplished fliers: they can take off suddenly (good for french fry thieving) and hover well (stealth opportunistic missions).
They nest in large colonies that are densely packed and loud, loud, loud. (Could you imagine a seagull co-op house? Loud and messy!) Seagulls are monogamous and mate from the life of the pair, laying on average 3 eggs a year. Chicks are born precocial, and are fully mature in 4 years.
You probably already knew this, due to the awesome movie “The Birds”, but seagulls are intelligent and are known to work together, even mobbing predators or other animals that attempt to steal their food, eggs, nests, or eat them.
Here’s your word of the day: Kleptoparacitism. Gulls are kleptoparasites: but you knew this, when they’ve stolen your french fries behind your back. They flourish by stealing, its a large part of their diet. Like many birds, their ability to fly increases their menu availability: they can snack on the land, in the air, and from the sea. Also, from your local In N Out. Some gulls will even land on surfacing, living whales and snack right off them! Pretty ballsy.
Some interesting tidbits:
They (many different species) breed on every continent. Including Antartica (I don’t know why my high school thought they could banish them with those fake owls)
They can drink salt water and fresh water.
Although same pairs may mate for life, divorce is not unknown. The social effects of the divorce are experienced for years after during the mating seasons.
Some gulls use tools: for instance, they may use bread as bait to catch fish.
Happy July 4th! I hope you are all enjoying your beachy, thieving buddies, the gulls, who are as American as apple pie, and as international as futbol.