In Praise of the Gull

I was told off recently by a neighbour for feeding gulls, and a few days later I saw a post on Facebook where someone else was complaining that they had been criticised for chucking a chip in the direction of a gull in order to get a good photograph.

Some of the comments were extremely fierce and there were even claims that feeding gulls is illegal. (Actually, it is, but only in Scotland.)

Such strong feelings made me want to find out more about these noisy, argumentative, graceful gliders, which I have always loved for their incredible seemingly haughty presence, so I went in search of more information.

When I was a child, gulls were usually called seagulls , but apparently the 50 species of the Laridae bird family (to give them their proper name) are found in every continent of the world, including Antarctica, and often actually live many miles from coastal regions. Though they are not generally at home in  dense jungles, steep mountains or barren deserts, gulls  are one of the most widespread families of birds in the world.

Incredibly resourceful, these omnivores will eat almost anything, from fish, insects and eggs to human rubbish, not to mention the not so occasional sausage roll or chip supper, which they are very adept at stealing, as any visitor to Tenby can attest.

But here is an interesting fact for you. Many  gulls can drink both fresh or saltwater. Equipped with a  special salt gland just above their eyes, they can regulate ions and electrolytes in their blood, and excess salt is excreted through their nostrils .

And while on the subject of special glands, they have a gland under their tails that produces an oil that protects their feathers – which answers the question that has always fascinated me as to how they remain so impossibly clean looking.

Passing through various shades as they mature, young gulls may not have that full startling white appearance for some years – if they make it to adulthood. It’s tough out there for young gulls, but if they do manage to hone some of those survival tricks that make them so unpopular with many humans, they may live for ten to 15 years, though some gulls have been known to live into their early thirties.

It is also interesting to find that in some cultures, gulls symbolise freedom. Manannan Mac Lir, for example, in Celtic mythology was a wily, tricky god of the sea who was often  portrayed as a gull.  

They are also seen as messengers from spirit and are credited with  the ability to see different viewpoints. Which personally, I think is marvellous.

If this little snippet of information can make any reader forgive the gull for decorating the roof of their car with gobbets of poop, or stealing their chips… if it will cause you to pause for a moment to enjoy watching these impossibly white masters of thermals and ace survivors as they soar through the radiant blue bowl of the sky, raucously calling to their mates, I will be immensely happy.

All images in this article have been taken from Pixabay, an online resource of free images .

Kitty Parsons

Kitty has forgotten how long she has been here now but she loves Pembrokeshire for its beauty and it's people. She spends her time searching out stories for, swimming in the sea , drawing and painting as Snorkelfish and eating cake. She says " has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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