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.
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