In these dark, sinister days, many an innocent life has fallen prey to the evil that stalks the black, smog-ridden skies of our towns and cities- the slick, oil smeared paving stones of our well trodden paths now empty of once enthusiastic, happy human life. We, the apex predators of the natural world, now cower in fear from a terror the like of which has never been faced by our kind before, the notorious beast known only as the Gu…hang on a second!, Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, these are only birds after all – not flesh eating monsters – and dramatising things will only make it worse (Oh the irony!).
Unfortunately for us, and even more so for the poor gulls, this is exactly what most of the media have been doing with their latest story- over dramatising the consequences of an ill timed act (in fact it’s what they generally do for everything, but we won’t go into the rights and wrongs of the media or we’d be here all day!), with some of the headlines reading:”Seagull stole my iPhone” (The Sun), “Moment killer seagull turns cannibal” (The Daily Mail) and “Psycho seagulls keep out illegals” (Daily Express).
Gulls, particularly the so-called ‘common’ gulls, usually the lesser black backs and the herring gulls, have not got it easy at the moment in terms of press- the most recent stories are about Gulls attacking pets and pensioners (sounds like the title of a film!), the fact that they are bolder birds than usual has got nothing to do with a so-called increase in their numbers (which is quite a load of rubbish actually, as the herring gull itself is red status in the UK, and therefore we must do all we can to make sure that it stays around, not drive it away), it’s actually our fault.
How is it our fault? I hear you say…well, the increase in our population in towns and cities has resulted in more rubbish being created and discarded, food being a rising source of this rubbish- this means that, in search of an easy meal (now don’t you go spreading tales of laziness on their part- we’ve all done it), more and more gulls will flock to our city centres and dumps. Therefore they get more used to human company, and being one of the most opportunistic and clever birds that I have ever observed, obviously see us humans as opportunities to obtain furthermore easy meals (hence the snapping up of your fish and chips on a Sunday morning!), some of us even feed the gulls, which makes them even less cautious and more at ease with human company- they also now pinpoint humans as a source for food, and are more likely to attempt to grab food from them; and all of this is simply gulls attempting to survive.
So that’s addressed the bombardment by gulls problem, now comes the recent story of gulls attacking and even killing pets- well, most of the gulls that did this were most probably protecting nests and therefore their young from the pets, and come on, we’ve all seen how protective a mother can be of her children- and with good reason; what may seem a cute and cuddly dog to us is in fact a rampaging and very dangerous predator to parent gulls, and therefore- being powerful and bold birds- they will deter it by attacking it, and in the case that it continues its advance, may peck it to death in protection of their chicks/eggs.
But it’s not all gloom and doom, because Gulls are, as I’ve said, some of the most opportunistic and intelligent birds that I have observed- therefore the simple fact that they exist in such close proximity to us is a privilege in my opinion, as they are one of the easiest birds to watch…if you can be bothered!. Gulls are certainly shrouded in mystery to most of us, even if we don’t know it; the sheer variety and range of species of gull is what amazes me the most- to name but a few: Herring Gull, Laughing Gull, Common Gull, Lesser and Greater Black Backed Gull, Sabine Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Black headed Gull, Caspian Gull…I could go on for much, much longer if I were to name all of the species of Gull that exist- the point is that many of us only know Gulls as the large, bold Herring Gull, or the smaller Black Headed Gull, we simply do not take the time to observe these very beautiful and resourceful creatures in terms of behaviour. Gulls also all have a different call, the one mostly everyone is familiar with is the boisterous cawing of the herring gull, or the call of a lesser balck backed gull, but if you study theses calls carefullY it can be extremely exciting in my opinion to pick out the different gulls by their calls and ID each one.
I mean, take the Mediterranean Gull; this beautiful Gull has a snowy white back, gradually darkening ever so slightly to form extremely light grey wings, the head is in sharp contrast to this, with jet black feathers covering it- broken only by a white eye hole, itself containing a ruby red eye that seems to continue onto a light red bill with a black ring on the tip. So you see, if you go into this much detail to describe a gull- you soon realise the beauty of what seems like a plain bird (I’ve heard many a birder complain about a flock of gulls ‘blocking the view’!) and if you observe them, you soon realise the intelligence of this bird (one of the characteristics I look for when admiring an animal).
My point is, I think we take for granted the gulls that wheel around our buildings calling out to each other in raucous calls, I understand that they can become a nuisance sometimes- but the answer is not to exterminate them, we need to find a way of living alongside them and managing them carefully so we can work to ensure the safety of a precious species.
Just take a look at these beauties!…