The Thoughtful Seagull

A thoughtful seagull at the beach

I’ve always liked seagulls, partly because I associate them with the beach, but mostly because they’re very entertaining. They have a bad reputation as aggressive scavengers, and I know they can be pests, but hey, they have to do what they can to survive, the same as any other species. They have lived alongside humans for thousands of years and they’re really quite fascinating birds.

We live close to the coast, and I will always return from trips to the beach with a few snapshots of the gull fellas. The one at the top of this post was taken on a recent trip to Broadstairs beach – I wonder what he is thinking so deeply about? Look at him again, look closely at his expression and his stance, and tell me this isn’t a seagull with a lot on his mind?

Here’s are five things you might not know about seagulls:

1) They are highly intelligent creatures, and learn behaviours to adapt to their environment. In groups they will stamp their feet on the ground to sound like rainfall which tricks earthworms into coming to the surface. They will also drop molluscs down on to rocks to crack them open and eat their contents.

2) Seagulls mate for life, and have a modern approach to parenting. Not only do they take it in turns to incubate the eggs, but they also take it in turns to feed and protect the chicks after they are born, while the other one goes off to hunt and scavenge.

3) They are one of very few animals that can drink both fresh and salt water. How handy is that?

4) Seagulls are much adored in Utah where they are the state bird since they successfully helped Mormon settlers deal with a plague of crickets.

5) In the wild, they typically live for around 10 years, but can live several times as long in captivity. I’m pretty certain they would choose a shorter life in the wild than a much longer one in captivity.

I think we can learn a lot from observing these beautiful, intelligent, and resourceful creatures.

What do you think? Seagulls – pest or pal?

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57 responses to “The Thoughtful Seagull

  1. I hate the buggers. Airborne rats!

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  2. I loved this post. I like seagulls, too. Except for Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I just couldn’t get into that, not even with a Neil Diamond soundtrack.

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  3. PEST, PEST, PEST!!!! I hate them!

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  4. You make an excellent and impressive case on behalf of the seagull.

    But if I ever found a bunch of them stamping on the ground, you would see me kicking at the flock in a wild fury, screaming “Stay down worms! It’s a trick!”

    To sum up, I prefer worms to seagull. Oh, and I prefer most things to worms.

    So there we are.

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  5. I live right on the beach and have developed an understanding with them. They stay off my land and I don’t fly.
    They are quite beautiful when you take the time to watch them. Their method of flying into the wind, hovering, waiting, it’s elegant.
    The locals know not to feed them and they know to hang around the tourists. It works well for everyone.

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    • When I lived right on the beach, I must admit their poop did drive me a bit nuts when it was on my car. It would sometimes be huge, with the weirdest things in it, and would set like concrete, but it still didn’t put me off them.

      I am glad that you at least admire their beauty 🙂

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  6. I hate to join the crowd here,but I have to go with Pest. In the interest of finding something good about them, though, there is only one species of gull in Florida, the laughing gull, and their cries are delightful. There is a restaurant on the island I always go to, with an outdoor seating area, and it has always amazed me that they keep away the gulls by stringing ordinary string across the area. No one seems to be able to tell me why that works, but it does. Otherwise, gulls are very aggressive and will take food off your plate and out of your hand! There are so many other shy birds that it’s a pleasure to see.
    But here’s what really turned me off to gulls. I always wanted to see a puffin, I’ve been to Canada many times, but never far enough north to see one. Then I read that seagulls snatch them out of the air and eat them. So that was ot for me and seagulls. I doubt seriously that any seagull I ever see has ever eaten a puffin, but I hate them anyway 🙂

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    • Well you’ve taught me something here, I didn’t even know puffins could fly! I thought of them as mini penguins. After reading what you said, I just Googled them, not because I didn’t believe you, but just to see some pictures of them in flight, and I see they do indeed have proper flying wings. Did you know though that puffins can also be eaten by seals, foxes, rats, mink, weasels, stoats, otters, Icelandic people and Gordon Ramsey – do you hate all of those too? Surely not otters or Icelandic people?

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  7. I have seen a lot of gulls in my life, but never one so pensive!

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  8. Ok, so they’re pensive, intelligent pests.

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  9. So much about seagulls I never knew! Definitely like them more now. Nicola

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  10. I like it when I can hear the gulls as it generally means I’m at the coast. And I LOVE to see the sea 🙂

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    • Great comment, Pete. I love the sea too. It makes me think about the fact that there are sort of two kinds of people: those who love the sea, and those who love mountains. I pretty much grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, and didn’t much like it. But I have friends who grew up there and would not trade it for the world. The ocean looks too vast and flat for them.

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  11. I agree with Pete, that hearing a seagull’s cries lifts my heart as I know I am near the beach. But one did a crap on my shoulder once, which I wasn’t very impressed with.
    I also remember being on a fishing trip as a youngster, and catching three fish (the specific species of which escapes me for the moment). Anyway, there we were, in a boat out at sea, and I had all these fish, but I don’t eat fish, and it never occurred to me to throw them back into the sea, so what was I going to do? Someone suggested I feed them to the gulls hovering over head, so, one by one, I threw them into the air, and I can still remember the gulls diving and snatching them up before they fell back down again. Amazing, really.
    On a side note, I have grown up since then, and I no longer go fishing. Not that I am against fishing, as such, I just think that if you are going to catch a fish you might as well do the decent thing and eat it!

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    • Everyone’s agreeing with Pete, but I was the one who said it first, in my very first line I said that one of the reasons I like seagulls is because I associate them with the beach!…grumble….mutter…. not fair… I never get any credit around here…always Pete…moan…grumble.

      I’ve never wanted to go fishing before, but now you’ve made me want to go just so that I can try that throwing them in the air for the gulls thing!

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  12. Throwing fish in the air reminds me of this one time when I lived in New Orleans, between Mardi Gras parades, a friend and I bought a pound or two of crawfish and took them out to Lake Ponchartrain. We would eat the tails and throw the heads up in the air and the gulls would snatch them up. However, we were eventually chased away because the gulls became scary. Apparently we weren’t throwing the heads fast enough to suit them 🙂 It was like your basic Hitchcock movie.
    You taught me something as well. That gulls can drink both fresh and salt water. I live about 25 miles from the coast, but we have lots of seagulls here. They hang out in the parking lot of the grocery store I go to. I always wondered how they could live so far from the sea.
    And as for other birds, I have hawks and owls and the occastional eagle hanging out by my birdfeeders. I wonder if it’s because I think of puffins as being so rare, but apparently, they aren’t. But they are awfully cute.

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    • Yes, puffins are very cute, like I said, I always think of them as mini penguins and I love penguins – it’s a bit like with humans isn’t it, the more beautiful tend to be cared about more; we’re all so shallow, I’m ashamed!

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  13. I also had to laugh at this…in today’s local newspaper, there was a picture of about six gulls chasing another one who had managed to secure a potato chip 🙂 Of course I thought of you 🙂

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  14. As a native Gulf Coast Floridian, Parrot Head, red neck beach bum, my opinion of gulls is I don’t have one. I use to have an opinion of people that feed them where I was sitting (not repeatable) but now I just go to spots that have no tourists-natives DO NOT feed them- and I don’t feed the gulls so they become ambient background. I did learn some new info from your post, I guess peaceful coexistence best describes my feelings for them.

    I do talk to the Cardinals in my yard and they follow me around to talk. I had to retire to discover that. In winter months (ha “winter” in Florida) we have Buntings and the mature males are the most beautiful of all, except for the wild Parrots that escape from Bush Gardens.

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    • I think peaceful coexistence is a good attitude to have, not just with gulls, but with other creatures…and some people too.

      Oh for the Florida weather – we’ve had a dreadful summer in the UK so far, I need to go somewhere warm and dry for a bit! Although we did have a sunny day yesterday which was very exciting.

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  15. I love seagulls. Looks like I am in the minority. I grew up on Cape Cod and live near the coast now as an adult, so I see gulls daily. They are only pests because humans made them that way. It is simply because they ARE so intelligent and adaptable that they figured out how to make the most of their coexistence with human beings. If we didn’t feed them junk for our own entertainment and jollies, the gulls wouldn’t behave in such a greedy, annoying way.

    When I went to Martha’s Vineyard this past weekend (you have to take a ferry from the mainland), a gull perched itself right on top of the mast the entire trip. He got a free ride over to the island. Now, I’m telling you. That’s a dang smart bird.

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    • Welcome into the minority group with me! I was very pleased to find another gull appreciator, thank you. I love the gull hitching a ride across to the island 🙂 I don’t know anything about Martha’s Vineyard, but I always like the sound of it – I think we hear about it over hear as being somewhere that presidents go for a short break so we imagine it must be very fancy!

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      • Yes, the vineyard, in some places is quite fancy but there are plenty of working-class areas, too. If you want to get really serious about exquisite, upscale, island living, then Nantucket is the place to check out. That is near Martha’s Vineyard, and you have to take a ferry there from the mainland as well.

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  16. I personally love the SOUND of seagulls. It reminds me of lazy summer holidays in Wales when I was growing up. My cousins who live at the seaside hated the sound of them because they associated the noise with being woken too early to go to school. For me it was relaxing because I knew I could lie in and listen to them, with no where to be and nothing to do.

    Occasionally I see and hear seagulls in Manchester (30+ miles inland) and it always makes me smile. (If they’re that far in land we know there’s trouble at sea). One day I commented on the raucous noise they were making in the city centre only to have it pointed out to me that those particular culprits were in fact geese. How embarrassing. 🙂

    I had no idea they could live that long in captivity. I’m with you in thinking they’d prefer a shorter life in the wild than a much longer one in captivity.

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  17. Pest, definitely. You neglected to mention that they shite everywhere. I’m down with the intelligence thing and I’m rather amused by your picture and description – which just confirms that they target their pooh-recipients. Me no likey. In Stornoway they are massive, big fatties. A few weeks back I saw a mummy duck almost drown a young seagull that was trying to eat her duckling’s food – it was actually pretty scary!

    I hit the Like button on this post because I thought it was interesting; however, I shall not be sharing your number 1 fact with my Spineless Wonders as I think both Cyril and Willy would be unimpressed and would possibly have nightmares for weeks! 😉

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