By Jen Mannas, Naturalist
Late summer is a bustling time of year for gulls in the Seattle area and here at PAWS. People are seeing them more readily now and finding injured birds as adult gulls are out gathering food for their hungry chicks.
Gulls are often referred to as seagulls lumping all of the species together. However, there are
actually 19 different species of gulls that live in North America, 14 of which spend part of the year in
Herring Gull - sub-adult
Washington. The term seagull is also very misleading as this suggests they only live near the ocean when in fact many species of gulls live, feed and nest inland. An example of this is the ring billed gull which is very common in eastern Washington.
Gulls nest in densely packed colonies and lay their eggs either directly on the ground or in a small nest bowl.The chick’s eyes are open and they are very mobile when they hatch; they are even capable of leaving the nest shortly after hatching. Gulls are very protective parents and will dive bomb potential predators to keep them away from their chicks. If you see healthy chicks that appear to be alone one of their parents is probably nearby watching and it is best to stay away.
Gulls are fantastic fliers and can actually float motionless in the air when looking for food. Gulls can eat just about anything including insects, small fish, other birds and small mammals. They also act as nature’s cleanup crew by scavenging on dead animals and other organic litter which can pose health threats to humans. Gulls are resourceful, smart, and very adaptable. Many species have learned to live and thrive in conjunction with humans, some species have been documented using objects as tools, they have a very complex method of communication and they have a highly developed social structure.
Glaucous Winged Gull chick
We have several gulls, from two different species, in our care at the PAWS. They are at different stages of development from very small chicks up to adults. This requires different levels of care from all of our staff and volunteers as they await their return to the wild.
Fun Fact: Most adult gulls have a red spot at the tip of their bill, newly hatched chicks use this spot as a target and will peck at it stimulating their parents to feed them.
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