Wildlife: Sociable birds that are known to steal a pasty or two!

Gulls have proved to be amongst the most adaptable and successful of all our bird species.

Monday, 11th October 2021, 9:57 am
Updated Monday, 11th October 2021, 9:57 am

Long-lived and intelligent, these sociable birds scour the landscape and the seascape in search of opportunities. Furthermore, with their beady eyes of both scavenger and killer, these birds are remarkably successful. The one pictured is one of our larger species, a herring gull. The ones we see here are mostly with pink legs and the typical herring gull heavy build and markings, but they are part of a global network of similar and in some cases related subspecies. Certainly, in the Northern Hemisphere if you track around the so-called circumpolar region you can follow a series of closely related sub-species that change in leg colour, body size, and shape as they go, and which can inter-breed where the different sub-species meet. So-called twitchers keen to get new species ticks on their lists can have a field day!

The herring gull is perhaps the archetypal seaside seagull and makes the characteristic loud kyow-kyow cries, which ring out across coastal resorts. This is also one of the species, which will follow a farmer’s plough in the autumn, and will flock in large numbers on inland water reservoirs and such places. Furthermore, if whilst on holiday you have ever had a pie or pasty snatched from your hand whilst sat on a harbour side or similar place, then this was probably the culprit.Ever alert and watchful, the herring gull keeps a keen eye of potential food straight from the hand or from discarded wrappings and the like. Of course, all the coastal gulls will follow boats such as trawlers as they head shoreward to discharge their precious catch. Historically these birds followed the famous North Sea herring fleets as they followed their fish along the coastline. From east Scotland down to Yarmouth, this was one of the great spectacles of the North Sea fishing towns. Sadly, later twentieth century industrial fishing destroyed itself and the fleets, like their fish, are gone. The herring gulls unlike the herring girls, remain.

Professor Ian D. Rotherham, researcher, writer & broadcaster on wildlife & environmental issues has a blog at https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/ and is also on Twitter @IanThewildside

Herring gull taken by Ian Rotherham.