Gulls are relatively large birds, characterized by grey or white plumage, often with black marks on their heads and wings.
Gulls range significantly in size and weight. The smallest gulls typically weigh 120 grams, while the largest gulls – Great Black-Backed gulls – often weigh 1.75 kg – nearly 15 times as much! Gulls have long wings and legs and heavy bodies compared to most birds. Gulls also have tails, which are either rounded, wedged, or forked ends. Their bills are also quite heavy, thick, and often slightly hooked.
RANGE & HABITAT
Why do seagulls fly over the sea? Because if they flew over the bay they’d be bagels (bay-gulls)!
Gulls are found throughout the world, across saltwater, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats. In BC, there are over 8 species of Gull. Gulls are migratory, which means they change locations between the summer and winter months.
Most gulls are omnivores and consume just about anything they can! This includes plants such as berries or seeds, as well as other smaller mammals, amphibians, birds and reptiles. Gulls also scavenge for food and can often be found near dumps and waste facilities.
Smaller gulls typically reach adulthood in two years, marked by the notable changes in their plumage. When female gulls lay their eggs, they incubate them for three and a half weeks. This involves the mother covering the eggs with her body to keep the temperature warm for the chick to survive.
Common gulls usually lay three eggs, and like many other gulls they hatch after 24–26 days. After an additional four weeks, the chicks develop the feathers they need to fly and are ready to leave the nest.
Gulls keep the same mate throughout their lifetime. Gulls also breed in colonies of up to a hundred thousand pairs and return to the same colony to breed in different years.
The main predators of gulls are larger birds of prey. For example, Eagles and falcons frequently prey on common gulls. Foxes and other land predators may also hunt gulls.
TRADITIONAL USES BY INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Seagulls play a significant role in many First Nations’ cultures. In some folklore, gulls are characterized as birds with a high amount of perseverance and endurance. In other stories, however, they are described as greedy, noisy and aggressive.
Some First Nations groups such as the Ahtna and Chippewa tribes use seagulls as their clan animal! The Nuu-chah-nulth people of Vancouver Island feature seagulls on their clan crest and sometimes carve them as part of a larger totem pole.
COSEWIC: Not at Risk
Gulls are very smart. One trick they use is to stamp their feet on the ground so that earthworks think it is raining and come out of the earth. Then, Seagulls gobble them up. Can you stamp your feet like a seagull?
PHOTO: Randen Pederson