February 23, 2021
The front-page of today’s paper carried an article about two trucks that had driven through a flock of gulls in as local city’s parking lot. A description of the trucks was provided by a couple who were in the lot at the time spreading seed for the ring-billed gulls who had gathered there during the recent ice and snow. Three of the birds were killed outright and a fourth had to be put down due to injuries. The police department said they had never received so many calls for one incident. The two suspects driving the trucks were found and cited for harassing wildlife. When one of the feeders was asked for comment their emotional reply was, “It was just a senseless slaughter.
The Cornell Lab site describes the ring-billed gull as being comfortable around humans. They are a migratory species, ranging from Canada in the north to Mexico in the south. In the interior the gull nests near freshwater. The gulls are often seen in large flocks into the hundreds and are known to frequent parking lots, garbage dumps, beaches, and fields. The adult gulls can be differentiated from other gulls by a black band encircling the yellow bill. Most of the gulls return to the same breeding spot every year, often nesting within a few meters from last year’s nest site.
The paper’s story on the gulls continued buried back on page six. The gulls are opportunistic scavengers, which leads them to seek out landfills and other human refuse sites. This is not their natural food source. Without human intervention they “feed on fish, insects, worms, grubs, and rodents” they find in the bodies of water or flooded agricultural fields near their nesting sites. Lyndle Crownover of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission commented that, “while people may be tempted to feed the gulls when they see them in parking lots, it’s not good for them.” They are perfectly capable of finding natural food even in the ice and snow conditions we have had. When humans do feed them, they become a nuisance with their droppings.
Thoughts: One of the sights I took visitors when I lived in the Bay Area was Pier 39 in San Francisco. This pier used to be a marina for 11 small craft, but in September 1989 it became the home for sea lions. The sea lions draw huge crowds that watch them fight for space as they bask in the sun on the floating docks. Owners of the boats which used to dock complained as the numbers rose, but news coverage brought attention, and the resulting tourist led to abandonment of the docks to the animals. The crowds also brought gulls who brazenly feast off the trash of humans. I have seen, and had, gulls take food from my hand when I was not paying attention. They love the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cones. Feeding birds in the wild is discouraged because they are rarely fed a nutritious diet. Instead, they fill up on the junk food humans provide and fail to eat the nutrients they need from natural sources. When they congregate in flocks, they are a nuisance and humans attempt to drive them off (sometimes with trucks). Both are senseless acts that harm the birds. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.