Herring Gull

A first cycle Herring Gull in flight. Photo: Collin Stempien

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Gulf Coast Gulls: Learning Our Local Larids

A misunderstood bird with an important purpose

From grocery store parking lots to coastal beaches, gulls are a common sight for everyone in our area. However, most of us really do not know a lot about them. When people think of gulls, or “seagulls,” they think of noisy birds that steal your fries and make a mess on your car. Despite this popular image, there is a lot more to gulls than meets the eye. For starters, there are around fifty different species of gulls in the world. About seven of those species are regularly seen here on the Gulf Coast, and more than a dozen species of gull have been recorded in the region. While some gulls can be prone to taking a stab at your ice cream cone, they truly are not the ones to blame. When gulls have been hand-fed leftover fries and bread for decades, it is no wonder they’ve grown to assume a handful of food is intended for them. These not-so-picky birds use their big appetites for an important function – cleaning up what could otherwise become a nasty mess – such as fish and other animals that wash ashore. While a flock of Laughing Gulls devouring the family picnic is not the most welcome sight at the beach, it’s worth keeping in mind that they are just doing what gulls are supposed to do. Check back each month as we highlight the gull species that can be found along our Gulf Coast shores.

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