There are many types of gulls, but they all have the same character: these birds are very capricious, energetic and even aggressive, they can go to great lengths to get their own food. Seagulls are often found on beaches near crowds of people, and on river and sea voyages they accompany ships, so their calls are well known to many.
Origin of the species and description
The gull genus belongs to the gull family and includes several dozen species that differ from each other in size (sometimes tens of times), color, range, preferred food, and many others. It was described back in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus under the name Larus. Two most characteristic species can be distinguished: the first is an ordinary gull, it is also a lake gull, and the second is a sea gull. Lakes are much smaller in size and live in fresh water. Their scientific description was also made by Linnaeus in 1766, the name in Latin is Larus ridibundus.
Sea gulls are large and live near the seas; they were described by the same Linnaeus in 1766 under the name Larus marinus. In total, the gull genus includes 23 species, some others were previously assigned to it, but after genetic studies, they were transferred to related genera. The most ancient birds inhabited the Earth about 150-160 million years ago, but the gulls are a much younger family. Its most ancient fossil representatives found lived on our planet already after the great extinction at the end of the Cretaceous – about 50-55 million years ago.
Apparently, they were among the families formed due to the fact that as a result of this extinction, many ecological niches were vacated, which were occupied by the descendants of the survivors, including birds. But even then it was far from the appearance of the seagulls themselves – the most ancient of them inhabited the Earth approximately 7-12 million years before our era. The Chaikovs are generally characterized by dynamic evolution: this group adapted to life near water in a relatively short time. At first these were inland waters, and then they began to develop the seas. Gradually, they received more and more evolutionary adaptations for life near and in water, and this process cannot yet be considered complete.
But what they definitely did was conquer most of the Earth, starting to settle from two centers: the remains The oldest populations of gulls have been found in Central Asia and South America. They succeeded in this thanks to their high fertility and ability to adapt.
Appearance and Features
Black-headed gulls weigh 200-400 grams and look slender. Sea gulls weigh many times more – 1.2-2 kg, these are large birds, reaching up to 80 cm in length. There are many other species, each with its own significant differences: two gulls of different species can outwardly differ much more than birds with completely different names.
The systematization of gulls is quite complicated, different ornithological schools can divide them according to their own systems. Additionally, the ability of gulls of different species to interbreed with each other and give offspring, the external features of which most often combine the features of both, complicates matters.
It is possible to identify common features characteristic of the vast majority of representatives of the genus: for example, gulls have a streamlined and long body with good aerodynamics, long wings and a square tail. On the legs, the membranes used for swimming are clearly visible – after all, this bird can dive for prey, and sometimes just frolic in the water.
They are characterized by white or gray plumage, black marks are often found on the head or wings. Young birds usually have brownish feathers, then with age they become lighter until they turn completely white in old gulls. The feathers are waterproof, with their help it is easy for the seagull to swim.
The beak is strong and rather long, its end is bent – the prey in the reservoirs is slippery, and the beak of this shape helps to hold it. Legs short, black or red. It is not easy to distinguish between males and females, for this you need to know the small signs by which this can be done in each species.
Where does the seagull live?
They live on the coasts , moreover, both seas and rivers with lakes. Some gulls even settle in swamps. In a word, their range is very wide, these birds are found on different continents and in different climatic zones. Some species are migratory, others remain wintering.
Each species has its own distribution area.
Thus, common gulls are common in:
- most of Europe;
- Southwestern Greenland;
- Central Asia.
As you can see from this , they are able to live in a wide variety of climates, from the subtropical Mediterranean and hot Uzbekistan, to cold Greenland, the Arkhangelsk region and Kolyma.
Some species of gulls are synanthropic, that is, they settle next to people and associate their lifestyle with them. Representatives of all kinds of people are not afraid, often fly up closer and start asking for food, they can even steal it until the owner turns away. They often follow the ships and see them off with characteristic cries.
Seagulls can be found not only near water bodies, but also at a distance from them: in search of food, they can fly to agricultural land or cities located tens of kilometers from their native lake or sea. For sure, you will not meet a seagull unless high in the mountains, in the desert or in dense jungle.
Interesting fact: Seagull colonies are very actively studied, using their example to study the behavior of animals in such large communities . Many principles of the science of ethology arose precisely on the basis of studying how gulls and their closest relatives, who also form similar communities, behave.
What does it eat seagull?
The diet of these birds diverse, they can eat anything, including bread, sausage and ice cream. Tourists who leave food in a conspicuous place are regularly convinced of this. But the basis of the menu of seagulls is still living creatures that they have to hunt.
They can circle over water, waiting for prey, for a very long time – if the hunt is not set, it sometimes has to be done for several hours in a row without results. And they are capable of this – these birds are very hardy. As soon as they find the prey, they headlong after it and dive into the water, and then grab it with their beak. They can use a smart approach and follow the big fish: they also hunt and point the seagull at the smaller fish, after which it tries to intercept the catch. And even if not, when a large predator catches the prey and will tear it apart, the seagull will try to intercept its piece – in the hope of this they often circle over the sharks.
If the prey managed to escape, then the seagull again has to go hunting, and its strength reserve should be enough to make many unsuccessful dives in a row. Despite the dexterity of these birds, hunting is difficult, which is why gulls prefer to beg for food from people. It is easier for them to get crabs or jellyfish thrown ashore – the former run away slowly, while the latter cannot do this at all. Therefore, seagulls are very fond of feasting on them and regularly visit the most fruitful places on the coast, on which living creatures are thrown in waves.
And if she has already managed to decompose a little, it does not matter – gulls do not disdain to eat carrion. They can also explore garbage dumps located relatively close to the shore in search of something edible. Also, seagulls that have not found food on the sea can catch amphibians, rodents, destroy other people’s nests and eat eggs.
Now you know what the seagull eats. Let’s see how she lives in the wild.
Character and lifestyle features
Active during the day, most of the time they spend trying to find food – and it needs a lot, because seagulls are very gluttonous. From the habitat in these searches they can fly off for many kilometers, but by the end of the day they return to spend the night back to the nesting sites. They are securely sheltered from the wind, and their abundance protects them from predators of seagulls.
They are characterized by ingenuity and they show it in different ways: for example, if a seagull cannot open a mollusk shell with its beak, then it throws it onto sharp stones from a height to break the shell. Often, seagulls can be found on the streets of cities near water bodies, they stick to everyone they meet with food, in the hope that they will share it with them. For feeding they can fly both singly and in flocks. The first option is fraught with conflicts between birds: they strive to rob a neighbor, as soon as he gapes, and then he will certainly use his beak and claws to take revenge on the offender.
Their whole way of life is based on how good the weather conditions are in the coming year and how much food they have. If the year turned out to be bad, they may not lay eggs at all, but at the same time they often still sit on the nests as if they are hatching them. If year after year the conditions are bad, then they can move the whole colony to another place.
On their small patch of territory around the nest, gulls do not allow anyone to take a step – this applies to both relatives and everyone else. If another seagull is in this territory, then a fight begins, and if a predator or a person invades it, then the entire colony of seagulls raises a cry, they take off and the sky and try to expel the alien, dousing him with droppings.
Fun fact: Black-headed gulls often take prey from smaller birds. They simply swoop down on them, begin to beat with their beak and make them drop their prey in order to defend themselves. After that, they just drive the poor thing away and appropriate it for themselves.
Social structure and reproduction
Seagulls live in whole colonies, each numbering from 500 to 5,000 individuals, the nests of which are located close to each other – from half a meter to ten meters. Although life in such a colony has its advantages – first of all, it is protection from predators, but it also has many disadvantages. The main thing is the quarrelsome nature of the seagulls themselves. They are each other’s worst predators, and conflicts constantly arise between them due to the invasion of one gull into the territory of another or because of food.
Seagulls are monogamous and form a pair at once for many years – usually until the death of one of the partners. The breeding season begins in warm areas in April, and where it is colder in May or June. By that time, migratory gulls just have time to fly in and look around, share nesting sites – during this division, males often fight with each other for the best. When the fights subside, the males choose females for themselves, after which ritual feeding is carried out: if the female takes food, then she agrees to form a pair, after which the male brings her to his site.
A nest is built on it. For this, seagulls use branches, moss, algae, shells. They often visit people for materials for them, and given their tendency to carry small objects, it can contain all kinds of beads, hairpins, threads. For this behavior, the inhabitants of the coasts do not like them, but seagulls also perform a useful function: they carry a lot of garbage from the streets.
The nest itself is usually round and quite large, with a depression in the middle. They are located on the rocks and cliffs, or right on the coast of the sea. If the shore is inaccessible to seagulls, they have to nest a little further away, then they try to settle on the plateau. The female lays 2-3 dark-colored eggs with green tones, after which she and the male incubate them in turn. Eggs need to develop for 20-30 days, then voracious and noisy chicks are born – they begin to demand food immediately. They can walk on their own a week later, but even after that their parents continue to feed them.
Both parents take part in this, and even together it is difficult for them to feed several chicks: every day they require more and more food, feeding must be carried out 5-6 times a day, and it is always necessary to bring a lot of small food to it. At the same time, the birds still need to eat themselves – they do not always manage to do this as well as before. Chicks begin to learn to fly at the age of one month, and completely master flight by two months, after which they begin to look for their own prey and settle separately from their parents. Puberty in gulls usually occurs in the second year of life, although in some species it comes earlier – at 8-10 months; there are those who have to wait more than three years.
Natural enemies of seagulls
Most of the gulls are rather large birds, they fly quickly and have well-developed sense organs. As a result, there are not so many predators that threaten them – some species of natural enemies have almost no at all. But for smaller gulls, these are large birds of prey, such as eagles or kites.
Attacks on gulls are quite rare, because it is dangerous to fly into a flock: usually a predator grabs one of the birds and retreats with it. Rarely, seagulls can be killed by sea creatures such as octopuses. Sometimes they are in danger on the ground – for example, they are hunted by foxes.
But predators do not cause as much damage to seagulls as relatives themselves. They live in large colonies, where the aggressive and absurd nature of these birds of prey is very pronounced: they constantly steal food from each other, fight because of this or for other reasons, and even tend to attack the nests of relatives.
Most often this happens on days when there is little prey and the birds begin to starve. It is quite difficult to keep the masonry intact, and then also protect the chicks, when it is also necessary to feed, and then feed the offspring. Therefore, a lot of gulls do not even have time to hatch from eggs or die very small – they are simply killed by their relatives.
People also exterminate gulls: in some areas they are considered a harmful bird that exterminates valuable fish, although this is almost always not the case – they almost always hunt small fish of no commercial value. In some places there are simply too many of them, and they start to interfere.
Population and species status
Seagulls are well adapted, including they managed to adapt to the increasing development of the planet by man. While many other birds suffer from it and even end up on the verge of extinction, gulls, on the contrary, even manage to increase their population thanks to people.
The main factor is that they partially switch to collecting food of anthropogenic origin. That is, they feed on various landfills, or following fishing boats and picking up fish and other food thrown from them. When the time comes for plowing, they fly to the fields and, after plowing, pick up worms and insects that are on the surface.
As a result of all this, nothing threatens the main species of gulls, on the contrary, they are spreading more and more widely. But there are also relatively rare species, in some areas even protected by law. Examples include the Red Sea white-eyed gull, the New Zealand Buller’s gull, and the lava gull, found only in the Galapagos Islands. or water, then the weather will be good, and if they shout and wander along the shore, then a storm is approaching. These signs are justified – if the atmospheric pressure is high, then there are no ascending air currents above the water and it is harder for seagulls to fly, which is why they prefer to stay on the shore.
The seagull has an aggressive temperament and constantly fights, ruining other people’s nests and taking away someone else’s prey – they definitely cannot be called good birds. But they do not cause much damage to people, except that they can pull off some small object. They understand how and where to get hold of food, and can beg for it from people or take it away from other birds.