Gulls are a product of the environment they live in; they are incredibly intelligent and their opportunistic hunt for food is a result of years of learned behaviour. A taste for human food isn’t a natural instinct, rather it has become convenient in a world filled with waste...
Gulls have learned how to get food from human waste, whether that’s stealthily taking it from hands, rummaging through overflowing bins, swooping onto leftovers, or visiting landfill sites to seek out scraps of food that humans have thrown away without a second thought.
When they’re not recycling what food us humans have thrown away as ‘rubbish’, they’re skimming over the water, looking for fish, shellfish and plankton but will eat insects and small reptiles too.
They are only one of a handful of species in their ability to drink both fresh and saltwater, due to special glands situated near their eyes that eliminates salt through openings in their bills. This allows them to travel far over the sea to find food.
Gulls are smart hunters, using hard rocks to break open hard-shelled molluscs, following field ploughs to pick out freshly turned grubs, as well as stomping their feet, imitating rain, to entice worms from the ground.
Gulls are expert fliers, with their large wingspan and masterful control of them. They understand wind changes and how to use hot air to aid their flying. They can swoop and change direction effortlessly.
Day to day, Gulls are extremely sociable birds. They can communicate through a variety of unique calls and body movements to share messages. Nests in the same area form a social structure where they look out for each other. If a perceived threat or intruder arrives, they work together to fight them off.
When looking for a bird to share their nest with, gulls are monogamous and often mate for life. Both male and female birds take it in turns to look after their eggs and, once hatched, will dote on the chicks.
While the chicks are growing, they make nursery flocks and adults will watch over them while they play, bring them food and pass on wisdom. This will continue until the chicks are old enough to fledge the nest. Not unlike human societies, where we raise young until they are able to fend for themselves.
We can learn a lot from observing gulls. Why not take the time to really appreciate these fascinating birds?
[This post was written by the incredible Jess Cartwright.]