Living as we do in a seaside community, gulls are an integral part of our lives. Sometimes referred to as “flying rats with wings,” these noisy, sometimes obnoxious, birds are an important part of the seaside ecosystem. Personally, I find them fascinating. Some interesting facts:
- Seagulls are monogamous creatures (they mate for a lifetime). Mating couple gather each year during the mating season to reproduce and to take care of their offspring.
- Gulls are pretty long-lived. Most seagulls can survey from 10 to 15 years in the wild.
- Even though they live in large colonies, breeding couples are highly territorial; they occupy and defend their territory from the nearby couples.
- Depending on the species, female can lay one, two or three dark brown or olive-green eggs. Incubation period lasts 22 to 26 days. Fathers play very important role in feeding of chicks. Young birds live in nursery flocks where they learn all skill required for independent life.
- Seagulls are very intelligent birds. They use breadcrumbs to attract fish and produce rain-like sound with their feet to attract earthworms hidden under the ground. Seagulls transfer all hunting skills and techniques to their offspring.
- Despite their seeming overabundance, seagulls are protected by the migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
With so many members of our community and visitors from elsewhere visiting Edmonds and taking a drive or walk along Sunset Avenue, we have watched so many, way too many people intentionally or unintentionally feeding the gulls. Since getting scraps thrown to you from a car window or left behind from a picnic on a bench is a heck of a lot easier than scavenging on the beach and competing with others, we have seen more and more sea gulls flocking to the street for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and every snack in between. One old gull guy in particular has been in front of our house just about every day for the past several months. Lots of you have probably seen him too. He has gotten so fat from all the human food that he has a hard time taking off. So he stands around in the middle of the street while traffic backs up until he deigns to move out of the way. I have had to go out several times to try to shoo him off the street—trust me you don’t want to try shooing off a gull.
He is a pretty smart guy. So like a good gull father he decided about a week ago to bring his family to supper. So along came two adolescent gulls and dad was showing them how to beg. Man were they successful until mommy gull came along and told them all to get the heck out of the street—what a lot of screeching and screaming. Like many kids they don’t always listen to mom. So yesterday, we found one of the adolescent gulls dead in the street in front of our house—hit or run over by a car.
Feeding gulls—feeding any wildlife—is just a bad idea. Feeding gulls is like sending out a smoke signal for others to come—many more than would gather in their natural states. Too many gulls can do grave danger to other more sensitive bird species as well as all other critters in and around a beach. It is also bad for the birds themselves as it increases their chances of spreading disease. Finally, human food isn’t healthy for birds or any other wildlife (maybe even us).
So the next time you are walking or parking on Sunset (or anywhere else for that matter), enjoy watching the gulls and please don’t feed them. It’s better for the birds and for us. Plus, I think gulls are a lot more interesting to watch when they are feeding naturally, not on the discarded remains of someone’s lunch.