Thursday, October 17, 2019

GULLS AND DUCK...

...the 'Duck' being the town of Duck, North Carolina, in the Outer Banks.  

Here are two maps showing its location.
I am continuing our walk along the boardwalk from several posts ago.  At one point there was a small docking area where gulls were resting.  I am always drawn to gulls.


Every time I see one now, I am reminded of a man I met who gave nature talks on gulls.  My whole life I had called them seagulls.  When we were looking at one such 'seagull', he told me that there are no 'seagulls', just gulls.  He seemed to know what he was talking about so I took him at his word...
and yet everywhere I go on the internet, they are known as 'Seagulls", even by Ogden Nash in one of his short poems.
The Sea-Gull
by Ogden Nash

Hark to the whimper of the sea-gull;
He weeps because he is not an ea-gull.
Suppose you were, you silly sea-gull.
Could you explain it to your she-gull?

I know they are not the most popular bird with some, but I have always loved them.  My experiences have never been as some I have heard, and I have read some real horror stories out there.  However, my whole life I remember them fondly,  so I suppose this is why I enjoy them on the rare occasion we are in each other's company.

"Seagulls...slim yachts of the element."
~Robinson Jeffers~ 

And here are some facts I found.

There are approximately 50 species of gulls found throughout the world.

Their lifespan depends on the species.  Most gulls have a lifespan from 10 to 15 years in the wild.

Gulls live in colonies that consist of few pairs of birds, or a couple of thousand birds.

Gulls are monogamous that mate for life.

They are devoted to their chicks and co-parent.
Most gulls breed once a year and have predictable breeding seasons lasting for three to five months.

Nest building is also part of the pair-bonding.  Most species of gull build their nests on the ground, while other species build their nests on elevated areas, such as cliffs or trees.

The clutch size is generally three eggs.

Both male and female take turns incubating eggs, with incubation lasting 26 days.

Young chicks are brooded by their parents for about one or two weeks, and often at least one parent remains with them until they fledge, to guard them.

Both parents feed the chicks, although early on in the rearing period, the male does most of the feeding and the female most of the brooding and guarding.

They can drink fresh water or salt water, though they prefer fresh.

That being said, being marine birds, gulls are often far from sources of fresh water.  Because of this they have special bill adaptations that allow them to filter the salt out of the water and make it drinkable.

Case in point, many of the world's species of gulls are the type we see all the time and display normal behavior, but there are also many who have evolved to suit their environs.  The lava gull for instance has adapted to volcanic islands and is black from bill to wingtip.  The swallow-tailed gull, native to the Galapagos Islands, is actually nocturnal, and specializes in hunting squid, swooping down in the moonlight to capture its prey.

Seagulls have existed on the earth for at least 30 to 33 million years.

In many cultures, seagulls are symbolic of freedom, versatility and a carefree lifestyle.

All gulls belong to the Laridae bird family, along with terns, kittiwakes, skimmers and noddies.  Noddies?  Click here to find out what those are.

And bingo!  This next bit refers to what I mentioned at the beginning of my post.  Despite the universal use of the general term "seagull" these birds are not associated just with pelagic, marine or coastal environments, and in fact there are no birds officially named seagulls.

At least one species is found on every continent, including Antarctica, and many gulls have widespread ranges that make them familiar to birders from vastly different regions.  This makes gulls one of the most widespread families of birds in the world.

A flock of gulls is called a colony, squabble, flotilla or scavenging.

Gulls are opportunistic feeders and yes, they will swoop down and steal a bag of fish and chips right out of your hands, and anything else they can get a hold of in the way of food.  I've never actually experienced this but have seen on several occasions people voluntarily feeding them for the fun of it, to watch them descending by the dozens.  When we were little and on holiday in a caravan (camping trailer to us over here), my father would open the small window in the roof and feed the gulls stale bread, and we delighted in feeling them peck our fingers as a whole flock grabbed all the bread they could before it ran out. Amazingly they never drew blood, and whether this was due to fast reflexes I don't remember.  I might add that I learned long ago now, that to feed any wildlife human food is most definitely not what we should do, however tempting.  It can be harmful to them, and to us, for so many reasons.

As far as gulls go, the California gull is quite smart.  Unlike many gulls, this species favors inland environments for nesting, and often migrate through farmland.  In these environments, insects are a preferred diet of choice.  Which leads to the following.

The California gull (Larus californicus) is the State Bird of Utah.  Not only is this the only gull to be an officially designated state bird, but it is also the only bird to be a symbolic icon for one state even though it is named after another state.  The reason is that in 1848 a great crop of gulls once saved the people of Utah by eating up hordes of crickets that were destroying the crops.  All day long they ate the crickets, and kept eating until these insects were gone, and then they returned to the lake islands from where they originated.  And the people of Utah were saved.  What a wonderful way to become a State Bird.

The Seagull Monument on Temple Square in Salt Lake City honors the gull.  Two sculptured gulls stand atop the monument which was unveiled in 1913.  Mahonri MacKintosh Young sculpted the monument.

The size of a gull varies widely.  The little gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus) is the smallest at just 11-12 inches long, a wingspan of 24 inches, and weighing just 3-4 ounces.  The Great black-backed gull (Larus marinus) is the largest gull at 28-30 inches long, with a 60-inch wing span and a weight of 3-4 pounds.

The smallest gull species in most of North America is a small bird with a black head, white body and red bill and legs.  It is called the Bonaparte's gull, named after Charles Lucien Bonaparte, the illegitimate cousin of Napoleon Bonaparte.  I have no idea how that came about but this History site tells us how many family members of Napoleon ended up in America.  And isn't it interesting how research on Gulls can send you in so many different directions?  Well, learning is fun, and I have had fun doing this post.
I bounced all over the internet last night, from one website to another.  Unfortunately I wasn't very careful taking note of their addresses, even though I was fascinated with all these facts I was reading.  I was up late and though my fingers were moving fast, my brain wasn't quite on the same pace.  That's the way I roll on a sleepless night at three in the morning.  I got caught up in the enjoyment of finding all about one of my favorite critters, and I didn't realize how late it.  I am having an early night!

So, I hope you've enjoyed all these interesting facts, and my apologies if it is a bit too long.  I wanted to get everything on record so that I could go back whenever I wanted, to re-read and maybe do more research while remembering to make a note of where I got my information from.  From childhood I have always had a curious mind on just about everything.



24 comments:

  1. So interesting that they can filter out salt from water! Have you seen the Navy Merchant Marine Sculpture near the Potomac River? It has gulls and waves and is quite beautiful.

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    1. Hi Linda, glad you enjoyed my post. I have seen the sculpture you mentioned on the Potomac, and have several pictures somewhere. It is magnificent and I need to go back for more updated photos as it's been a while :)

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  2. Several birding blogs I follow educated me on the seagull/gull issue. I am careful now. Some of our 'seagulls) are decidedly landlocked and will never see the sea. Calling them silver gulls make more sense.
    And thank for for continuing my education.

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    1. Thank you EC, you are very welcome :) We have them in this area at times. When I lived near the ocean and saw them two miles inland, my dad would always say there must be a storm at sea. It never struck me that there might be those that have never seen the ocean.

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  3. Gosto de ver e fotografar estas gaivotas à beira mar, aproveito para desejar a continuação de uma boa semana.

    Andarilhar
    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa
    O prazer dos livros

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    1. Obrigado! Estou muito feliz que você tenha gostado do meu post. Uma boa semana continuada para você também :)

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  4. Hello, wow what a great post on the Gulls. Your photos are awesome too! Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy weekend ahead.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Eileen and thank you! Happy day and weekend to you also :)

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  5. I enjoyed this a lot and learned some great facts! I admire your passion to detail!

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    1. Hi Laurie, that makes me happy, thank you! My detail can sometimes go overboard so I appreciate you saying that :)))

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  6. I am glad that at least one person knows the proper term is gull. My problem is to identify the species. Thy are usually just far enough away that you can't see important markings needed for identification.

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    1. Thanks Red, and that must be difficult. I know I have a hard time recognizing markings at the best of times and I am not the expert you are.

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  7. Very interesting article about guls (which I too have always called seagulls), and your photos are awesome.

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  8. The gulls we have around here I tend to like. I see them from time to time, and they come across as characters.

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    1. That's great! I also think of them as characters and if I have the opportunity will sit and observe them for a while. Thank you William :)

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    1. You are very welcome Christine, happy you enjoyed :)

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  10. Wow! I never knew there was so much to know about gulls! Good job on the research! Great pictures of the gulls.

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  11. Don't forget Jonathan Livingston Seagull!

    :)

    I had no idea they were only called gulls.

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  12. I knew that we are “supposed” to only say gulls, not seagulls. And I knew about the Utah part. But all the rest of your amazing research was new to me and I really appreciate all of it! ... I like these birds a lot too! (And I am feeling very lazy compared to you....I have sleepless nights also, but must say during mine I don’t accomplish even a tiny fraction of what you did here! )Thanks.

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    1. Thank you Sallie, I'm glad you enjoyed this and I have to say, I still think of them as seagulls ;)

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