It’s a Gulls Life

by John Briggs on May 28, 2009

in Bird Photographs, Blog

Black-backed Gull | Click for larger view

Black-backed Gull | Click for larger view

While awaiting for the Osprey action to begin when I was at Damariscotta Mills one day last week, hundreds of Back-backed and Herring Gulls were taking advantage of the low-tide easy pickings of Alewives.

Fighting, squawking and general unruliness was nearly deafening at times as the birds tried to steal fish from each other. When a Bald Eagle would pass overhead, every Gull took flight with wings flapping and sounding like sheets in the wind.

Gulls, sometimes mistakenly called Seagulls, have been known to attack Eagles, Osprey, whales, people, pets and other birds. I have watched Black-backed Gulls take Eider chicks and swallow them whole. They can devastate nesting seabird colonies and harass patrons at fast food restaurants all for that glorious french fry.

Increasing gull populations in North America during the past century have led to a variety of problems for different segments of society. Gulls cause damage to agricultural crops and threaten human safety at and near airports. They are involved in more collisions with aircraft than any other bird group because they are numerous and widely distributed. The presence of Gull roosts near reservoirs increases their potential for transmitting diseases to human populations. Gulls occasionally cause a nuisance when they nest on rooftops and seek food from people eating out-of-doors. Gulls are predators of several seabirds during the breeding season. Expanding and colonizing Gull populations may have detrimental affects on the breeding performance of these other, often preferred, species. But one must remember that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 decreed that all migratory birds and their parts (including eggs, nests, and feathers) were fully protected; all Gulls fall under this act.

Some states and localities have laws which prohibit the feeding of Gulls. In the United States, Gulls may be taken only with a permit issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Permits are issued only after frightening techniques, physical barriers, or both have been used correctly and qualified personnel certify that these methods have been ineffective. Some states may require an additional permit to kill gulls. No federal permit is needed, however, to frighten or mechanically exclude Gulls.

I sometimes watch Gulls and am fascinated by their graceful flight and their antics while on the ground. Love them or hate them, they are a part of nature and we must live with them in harmony.

Click photos for larger view.

Happy birding!


Shelley May 28, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Great shots! I didn’t realize how destructive these guys were.

gwendolen May 28, 2009 at 6:13 pm

I love gulls. :) Thanks for the cool pix, John. I am building a small collection myself.
It seems gulls have quite a bad rep in the US. Over here in NL they all still behave. Well, most of the time ;-)

John Briggs May 28, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Thanks Shelley and Gwendolen!

I remember an episode in Scarborough where an elderly lady had an order of fried clams and fries and was going to a picnic table using her walker. Gulls saw the food in the basket on her walker and attacked her. She was knocked to the ground. A fella tried pulling the Gulls off of her and killed one in the process. He was arrested for killing a federally protected species. Judge threw out the charge as the woman’s life was in danger.

Cathy May 28, 2009 at 11:46 pm

hi John, when we first moved to Scarborough, I quickly developed a love/hate relationship with gulls. When I put the garbage out to streetside before leaving for work, I initially didn’t have containers with good lids. Gulls would descend shortly after my departure…and I would come home to strewn garbage on my lawn…
but basically I regard gulls as the salt of the earth of the bird world. They have survived because they are resourceful under the most difficult of circumstances. They could almost be an emblem of the Yankee spirit.

Andy May 29, 2009 at 6:09 am

Excellent info and post and as always photos!

Dawn Fine May 29, 2009 at 7:03 am

Hi John,
Great Gull Shots!
I suppose gulls can be annoying at times. I enjoy watching them as you do.

John T. May 29, 2009 at 7:13 am

As a kid we used to feed them french fries in the parking lot of McDonald’s in Brunswick.

Steve Creek May 29, 2009 at 8:03 am

Great captures John! I really like the one that you have titled “Herring Gull making waves”.

John Briggs May 29, 2009 at 8:12 am

Thanks everyone! Your comments are greatly appreciated!

Sharon May 31, 2009 at 6:52 am

So I guess I shouldn’t call them seagulls any longer, right? ; )

Though they can definitely be a menace, I’ve always enjoyed watching Gulls. My husband on the other hand calls them rats. Either way you’ve captured them beautifully John.

Robin May 31, 2009 at 8:16 am

Terrific gull shots. I’ve got a ‘collection’ of shots like this myself. I find them to be fascinating subjects to photographs. And, I’ve had them steal an entire order of baby back ribs and onion rings at Sebasco! The bums! Where can I find the meta data for your photos on your site? RRR

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