January 6, 2019
The weather has been absolutely beautiful here for the last few days, sunny and spring-like with temperatures in the forties and fifties. Surprisingly, though, we haven’t seen many birds, even though we have been out for hours every day looking for them. So today, Mel and I decided to try a change of venue and head over to Lake Michigan (about an hour’s drive) to look for birds there. If nothing else, we’d enjoy a pleasant drive and a visit to our favorite South Haven coffee shop (Julia’s), and our favorite South Haven restaurant (Phoenix Street).
Even though our birding adventure didn’t afford us much exercise, we had a great time standing on the waterfront attempting to get interesting pictures of all the seagulls—on the piers, on the beach, on the light posts, on the railings, in the water and flying overhead. We were not at a loss for subject matter—although some might argue that ‘interesting seagulls’ might be considered an oxymoron!
So, here are some of the interesting facts I found out about seagulls: Apparently, there are at least twenty-eight types of gull species in North America alone, and about 50 types throughout the world. Mel and I saw three different types today–the ring-billed gull, the herring gull and the lesser black-backed gull. Seagulls are everywhere! At least one gull species can be found on every single continent, including Antarctica! I didn’t know that! And, a flock of gulls is called a colony, or a squabble, or a flotilla, or a scavenging. I liked Squabble the best.
My biggest surprise was learning that gulls are considered (by some sources, anyway) to be “intelligent”! I would never have put ‘intelligent’ and ‘seagull’ in the same sentence! Scavengers yes, intelligent no. But, according to The Spruce: Fun Facts About Gulls: “Gulls are intelligent, curious birds that may play games, steal prey from other birds, harass other animals, and even take advantage of humans by stealing from picnic areas…always working to turn the tide in their favor.” Hmm.
I was also surprised to learn that gulls, if they manage to survive to adulthood, can live more than 30 years, with an average life span of 10 to 15 years. They also mate for life—unless they can’t produce any healthy chicks, in which case they may get a ‘divorce’. “Many gull colonies appear to have a divorce stigma. A previously mated bird could be seen as less desirable for several nesting seasons after splitting from a partner.” (The Spruce) Who knew? Divorced Gulls!
Like many other types of birds worldwide, all seabirds face threats to their existence– including risks from oil pollution, fishing line tangles, and plastic ingestion. “One legged gulls are not an uncommon sight.” At least one of the gulls we photographed today had only one leg. And while these birds are adaptable to this kind of injury, it is up to all of us to be conscientious consumers and make sure this doesn’t happen.
So, it seems like even the ubiquitous gull can be an interesting bird– if you dig around long enough!!