Nov 28, 2012

Seagulls don't have to be only at the seashore

Clark of Grand Haven asked, "An article in the paper recently referred to seagulls on the beach. Are they really seagulls on the beaches of Lake Michigan or just gulls? They are a long way from the sea."

Funny question, Clark. The simple answer is that the term seagull is a misnomer.

Sure, they'll be found along the seashores, but they could be the same species we find so common along our non-saltwater Great Lakes.

There are 23 North American species belonging to the family Laridae, or gulls. In the Great Lakes region, the most common species is the ring-billed gull. Some call them "flying rats."

The ring-billed gull is one of the most abundant species across North America. So, you'll see them flying around Grand Haven's sand as well as when you're vacationing in Florida and other parts of the country.

"The ring-billed gull population has been increasing steadily in recent history, with the North American population estimated at 3-4 million," according to information from the Wild Goose Chase Inc. website. "... The ring-billed gull is a medium-sized gull with a light-gray back and upper wings, and white under parts and yellow legs. It’s most distinguishing characteristic is a distinct black band around a yellow bill."

Ring-billed gulls don’t attain their adult plumage until their third year, going through various mottled brown plumages in the process.

E. coli in Lake Michigan has been conclusively linked to gull droppings through numerous studies using DNA fingerprinting, the Wild Goose Chasers say. And a new study on the problem is what the Nov. 5 Tribune article referred to by Clark was about: "Seagull problem studied." To read it, click here.

Do you think seagulls are pests at the beach? We asked Tribune online readers that question a few weeks ago. The results of that poll: 48% said yes, 44% said no, 6% said they don't go to the beach and 2% were uncertain.

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