Seagulls are birds that live by large bodies of water such as oceans, bays and lakes. Hence, they are usually fixtures in coastal locations. Seagulls are considered to be seabirds that are closely related to terns. Seagulls come in many different varieties and their shapes and sizes can vary. Generally, they are medium or large in size. Most gulls are gray and white with black markings on the wings and tail (although some gulls actually have entirely black heads). They are capable of producing extremely loud vocalizations including an alarm-like shrilly shriek.
Gulls nest in the ground amid a colony of other seagulls. Seagulls are monogamous, meaning that a pair usually mates for life. They lay two or three speckled eggs in nests that they build from branches and similar vegetation. Incubation lasts approximately 22-26 days. Like most birds, when baby seagulls hatch they depend on their parents to feed them and care for them until they get big and strong enough to fly. Seagulls can live an astoundingly long time. Large White-Headed Gulls and Herring Gulls can live over 40 years—a Herring gull was once recording as having lived to age 49!
Seagulls are extremely proficient scavengers and they will eat practically anything. Naturally, they will fish for clams, mussels, crabs and tiny fish but they will also dine on seaweed and certain kinds of plants. Seagulls have jaws that can unhinge (much like a snake) so they are able to consume objects that might look too big to fit inside their mouths.
Seagulls are also noted to be very intelligent and resourceful. Hence, beachgoers are used to seeing seagulls that flock to crowded beachside food courts in the summer. They will steal French fries, chips, bread and anything else that they can fly off with—most food courts have signs up that warn patrons to guard their food from the birds. Some seagulls become so brazen and fearless towards people that they will walk onto beach blankets to steal foods like potato chips and cookies!
Seagulls are quite social and they often display mobbing behavior in situations where they feel threatened or disadvantaged—including when they are searching for food. Mobbing behavior is observed when several gulls stand together to either ward off a predator or evade an area. In the case of beachgoers defending their food, several gulls might surround a blanket and work together to grab the food. It is suggested that gulls also possess enough intelligence to figure out how to open closed bags containing food or even using tools to attain food. There have been suggestions that seagulls are smart enough to wait until a person is asleep and then venture onto their blanket, searching for sustenance.
Although seagulls generally live harmoniously with people, many find their harsh calls and extreme food aggression to be off putting and these feelings have occasionally extended into entertainment media. In 1963, Alfred Hitchcock directed a cult-classic film called “The Birds” which plot centers around a town that is being terrorized by attacking seagulls!
Although seagulls are annoying to some people, those who like animals are likely to find them cute and a wonderful natural inhabitants and features of the coastlines. Hence, the next time you visit a large body of water, look out for these extremely inquisitive and interesting birds.