The Truth About Seagulls

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The spiraling columns of seagulls squawking in the skies above downtown Bremerton and creating a white, splotchy mess below were likely caused by nocturnal, ground-dwelling predators, an expert on the proud, noble seagull said Thursday.

Another expert opined that perhaps animal control agents were trying to thin their ranks, or at least displace them, but he couldn’t account for the swarming and squabbling at night.

Both said eagles and peregrine falcons would likely pester the gulls, trying to feast on their young – sort of like credit card companies – but they would likely do their hunting during the day.

That said, it’s still a bit of a mystery what riled up that loud crowd of feathered friends last week.

I haven’t heard any recent reports, although at least one loyal Bremerton Beat reader said she heard the cacophony as far away as Naval Avenue Early Learning Center.

Ann Edwards, visiting scholar at the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, said the likely culprit is a “terrestrial nocturnal predator.”

“It could be cats, or even rats,” she said. “If they are calling that much they are upset, and they are up in the air, that’s an important sign,” she said. “It sounds very much like predators.”

She said the birds are establishing breeding colonies now and should be laying eggs soon.

Dave Nysewander, project leader for marine bird and mammal assessment for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said his first suspicion was humans trying to nudge out the gulls. He said he thought he had heard some “scuttlebutt” of such a mission, and noted that it was just before breeding season, the best time to give gulls the bum’s rush.

But because the activity seems to be at night, he agreed it was possible ground-dwelling predators were harassing the gulls in the dark. He didn’t rule out other birds, though.

“At night you don’t think of eagles,” he said. But an owl? “An owl got them all excited maybe,” he said. “Sounds like they were more noisy, more predator or alarm type of situation.”

I was relieved to hear from these experts. They assuaged my fears that I had somehow offended the seagulls, and they were coming for me. Now I realize they are just as afraid of terrestrial nocturnal predators as I am.

I think of seagulls sort of like teenagers. Some are nice and well-behaved, some have murder in their eyes, and when they get together they can be as prone to violence as British soccer fans. They will drop things on you, given the chance, and while it’s fun to theorize about why they do the things they do, it’s ultimately a mystery.

In summary, I can only leave you with a quote from Spinal Tap.

“It was really one of those things – it was – you know, the authorities said, you know, best leave it–unsolved really.”

2 thoughts on “The Truth About Seagulls

  1. Andy,

    If you get up early enough, you will see that the primary “terrestrial nocturnal predators” in Bremerton are those big raccoons. The city is overrun by them at night. One ran across the Gateway in front of me this morning, nearly overturning a VW bug.

    Then again, maybe they are just really big rats wearing masks…

  2. Maybe they are Caspian terns, the ones you usually hear first, then see, solitary, way way up high, screech-crawing at the top of their lungs. Last night a swarm of a hundred were spriraling and screeching over my house.

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