Gulls Gabbing

This gull, and then three more, were cawing up a storm just off the eastern shore of the park. I have no idea what it was about. There didn’t seem to be any food in the water and the birds weren’t pursuing some sort of family quarrel. I guess they were just being gulls.

I don’t often photograph gulls. That’s partly because they’re almost always there, so it’s nothing special. And it’s also — to be honest — because I have a hard time telling them apart. There are birders, and then there are gullers. Gullers can look at a flock flying half a mile away and spot the one gull in the mob that’s a different species from the rest. Me, I have to take the photos home and sweat over pictures on the computer to decide whether it’s herring, or western, or California, or what. Mew Gulls are easy, they’re small. Ring-billed — there’s the signature ring on the bill. But the mainline gull crowd can be baffling, especially when immature. That said, I’m putting my two cents on Western Gull for these. They’re big, the bill is sort of fat, they’ve got that dark gray back, a thin orange ring around the eye, and their legs — thank goodness the bird climbed out of the water onto a rock — their legs are pinkish. So, Western. In breeding plumage.

The Cornell bird lab has some “Cool Facts” about the Western Gull. Among them:

Like most gulls, the Western Gull is an opportunistic feeder, capturing its own live prey, scavenging refuse, or stealing food from seals and other gulls. It is known to steal milk from lactating female seals while they lie on their backs sleeping on the beach.

In colonies with many more females than males present, two females may establish a pair bond. Each lays eggs, and then takes care of the double-sized brood. The female-biased sex ratio of some Western Gull colonies may have been the result of pollution by pesticides that acted like estrogen and made some male embryos develop as females.

The oldest recorded Western Gull was at least 33 years, 11 months old. It was banded in 1973 in California, and sighted in the same state in 2007 and identified by its band.

More about these birds in Wikipedia and Audubon.

Pinkish legs –> Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)
Orange ring around the eye –> Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)

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