The other day I was up late watching a baseball game, and noticed seagulls kept flying in front of the camera. Apparently the studio noticed too, because they zoomed out and showed a shot of the entire park, where hundreds of seagulls were flying over the San Francisco Giant’s stadium. This obviously wasn’t a regular occurrence, because the commentators were making a pretty big deal about it. So it got me thinking, why were the birds there? What was so special about this particular baseball game?
Then it hit me. The game had gone to extra innings, and was in fact in the 13th. That’s four innings longer than normal, for those of you who don’t watch baseball. So my theory was this: the birds usually came to the stadium after baseball games, which happen at regular times. It seems the gulls would wait until the people all left and then swoop in to gather all the left over food from all the fans. But this game went on long past when the people normally left, so they got impatient and went to see what was going on. That’s what I think, anyway. It makes sense to me, and I thought it was pretty cool, so I thought I’d blog about it. So today’s animal is: gulls!
I grew up in Vancouver, so seagulls were pretty familiar birds to me. Despite this, I never really knew that much about them. It turns out seagulls or gulls are birds in the family Laridae, related to terns, and less closely, auks. Basically most gulls look like your standard seagull: white or grey feathers, with a big orange beak.
Gulls are pretty interesting animals. The image I have of them scavenging any type of food (and stealing things from beachgoers) isn’t too far off. They will eat pretty much anything, from fish to crabs to insects to garbage to seeds. Some gulls follow marine species and wait till these predators drive fish to the surface, while others cut out the middleman, and feed on whales as the great animals surface to breathe. Despite what you might think, these birds are fairly intelligent, and have been observed using tools (a species is known to use bread as bait for goldfish). As well, some birds drop clam shells and other shellfish onto hard surfaces to crack them open. Gulls also have the ability to drink seawater. Special exocrine glands allow the birds to excrete salt out their nostrils, keeping their electrolytes from going out of whack.
Gulls are monogamous, and tend to breed in large colonies. Which I guess is why you never really see just one seagull. Some gulls have been known to be ‘divorced’ from their mated pair, which has effects down the road for both birds, although what these are is unclear. Maybe other birds are less willing to mate with them because of the baggage from their first mating.
Anyway, have more appreciation for the lowly seagull, they are pretty cool. And the more I learn about them the more probable my explanation for the baseball game behaviour becomes. So maybe I am doing the right thing, going into animal behaviour. Who knows?
Cover image By C Watts – seagull bird, CC BY 2.0