Shoreline Area Wildlife: Gulls

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

PAWS provides regular posts about wild animals commonly found in the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park area. Each post gives facts on the species’ natural behavior, as well as how to avoid and resolve common problems with the animals.

Photo courtesy PAWS
Natural behavior

Gulls, often referred to as "seagulls," are a group of birds belonging to the family Laridae. According to Seattle Audubon's Bird Web, "The family Laridae is made up of birds closely associated with water. Distributed throughout the world, representatives of this family nest on every continent, including Antarctica.

Clutch size is generally small, varying from one to four eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs and help feed the young. The young typically hatch covered with down and stay in the nest for a few days, after which they leave the nest but stay nearby. Most, especially in Washington, raise a single brood a year. This group is known for its elaborate displays in the air and on the ground."

There are more than a dozen gull species in Washington State. They are especially numerous on the outer coast and on the shores of Puget Sound, but many can be found further inland on lakes, ponds and along rivers.

Gull diets vary, but fish, crustaceans, mollusks, other aquatic invertebrates and dead animals comprise a large part of the diet of most species. Many gull species are very tolerant of human activity and congregate in large numbers on pilings, breakwaters, roofs of buildings, and other human-created structures near water.

Solving and preventing conflicts

Photo by Shane Adams
Most conflicts with gulls involve their roosting where they are not wanted. Gulls are relatively large birds and their droppings are not insignificant. Even a few gulls perching regularly on the roof of a house can add a layer of undesirable whitewash to the roof in a fairly short period of time.

Gulls are also very vocal, and when gathered in large numbers they are capable of disturbing the sleep, or general peace and quiet for humans.

Eliminate roosting sites

Photo by Chas Redmond
The most effective way to avoid conflicts with gulls is to eliminate roosting sites, or make your property unappealing to the birds. If your property is near the water, this can be a challenge.

  • If the birds are simply using the peak of a roof, deterrents such as bird spikes can be installed to make the perch less desirable.
  • If they are utilizing an area that is too extensive to be covered by spikes, try visual deterrents, sonic emitters or other annoyance tactics such as spraying the birds with a hose when they try to land.
  • CAUTION: Avoid using gels or other sticky and tacky products that are advertised as bird repellents. More often than not, the birds do not see these greasy substances until they land on them. PAWS receives birds every year who suffer tremendously because their feathers have become coated after landing in these substances.
Do not attract gulls

Photo from Creative Commons
In addition to eliminating roosting sites, don't intentionally or unintentionally attract gulls.
  • Never purposely feed gulls. Putting out bread, French fries or other human foods for gulls is not only unhealthy for the birds, but it attracts them in large numbers. Birds who get used to being fed in an area will frequent that area, likely roosting on nearby roofs or structures.
  • Deny gulls access to unnatural food sources on your property, such as your garbage. Gulls do not generally knock over garbage cans, but they may pick through an uncovered can or take advantage of a can that has been knocked over by a dog or other animal.
  • Secure trash can lids further with a bungee cord or chain, or store in a locked shed.
  • Do not put food of any kind in open compost piles.
  • Bury food in an underground composter or put it into a lidded worm box (read more about composting from Seattle Tilth).
If you or a neighbor have questions or a current problem with wildlife, please call the staff at PAWS Wildlife Center at 425-412-4040. PAWS helps resolve conflicts with wild animals and also rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife found by the public.

--PAWS Wildlife Center Staff |


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