Key facts about Seagulls
Seagulls evolved more than 15 million years ago in the northern Atlantic.
In the UK, six species of gull are present that are either common or abundant, these being
- Black headed Gull
- Common Gull
- Great Black-backed Gull
- Herring Gull
- Lesser Black-backed Gull
There is a great deal of diversity between different gull species, with the smallest being the Little Gull (120g and 29cm) and the largest being the Great Black-backed Gull (1.75kg and 75cm).
Seagulls have excellent vision, better than human vision in fact, and they are one of the few birds with eyes that can move in their sockets.
Seagulls are extremely clever. They learn, remember and even pass on behaviours, for example stamping their feet in a group to imitate rainfall and trick earthworms to come to the surface.
Seagulls are monogamous creatures that mate for life and rarely separate. They have a strong societal structure that works very effectively against predators to their breeding colonies, as they will gang up on the intruder with up to a hundred gulls and drive them away, on occasion even driving them out to sea to drown.
As parents, seagulls are attentive and caring, with both involved in incubating the eggs as well as feeding and protecting the chicks until they fledge.
Young gulls form nursery flocks where they will play and learn vital skills from adulthood. Nursery flocks are watched over by a few adult males and these flocks will remain together until the birds are old enough to breed.
Gulls have a complex and highly developed repertoire for communication which includes a range of vocalisations and body movements.
A small claw halfway up their lower leg enables them to sit and roost on high ledges without being blown off.
Seagulls can drink both fresh and salt water. Most animals are unable to do this, however seagulls have a special pair of glands directly above their eyes which are specifically designed to flush the salt from their systems through openings in the bill.
Seagulls are expert fliers, having mastered control of wind and thermals, sharp directional changes, climbs and dives. They are a spectacle to watch on windy days as they hover motionless using the wind and their superb vision to study the sea life below for potential prey.
Many seagulls have learned to conserve energy by hovering over bridges to absorb raising heat from paved roadways.
In Native American symbolism, the seagull represents a carefree attitude, versatility and freedom.