18 Interesting Facts About Seagulls

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Seagulls are a common sight across coastal regions around the world. These noisy birds have adapted well to urban environments and can be seen scavenging for food wherever humans are. While they have a reputation for being aggressive and bothersome, seagulls are fascinating birds that play an important role in many ecosystems.

Here are 18 interesting facts about seagulls that may change the way you see them:

Interesting Facts About Seagulls

1. There Are Many Different Species

The term “seagull” refers to many species of coastal-dwelling gulls. Some of the most common seagull species include:

  • Herring Gulls – Large and aggressive with grey and white feathers. One of the most numerous species.
  • Ring-Billed Gulls – Smaller with black and white feathers and a yellow bill with a black ring.
  • Laughing Gulls – Medium-sized with blackheads and red beaks. Known for their loud “laughing” calls.

In total, there are over 50 species of gulls worldwide! Each is adapted to survive in various coastal habitats.

2. They Are Highly Intelligent

Seagulls have surprisingly complex brains for birds. Studies have shown that they are capable of complex communication, problem-solving, and even deception!

Seagulls recognize and remember human faces and can associate people with either positive or negative interactions. They’ve even demonstrated the ability to use simple tools to access food.

3. They Are Opportunistic Eaters

Seagulls can eat almost anything! They have diverse diets consisting of:

  • Small fish
  • Insects
  • Earthworms
  • Crabs and other crustaceans
  • Eggs from birds and turtles
  • Carrion from seals, birds and even deer
  • Human food waste

Their digestive systems allow them to consume nearly anything edible they can get their beaks on!

4. They Drink Saltwater

Seagulls have special glands above their eyes that filter excess salt from the seawater they drink. The salt is then excreted in a concentrated solution from their nostrils.

This efficient salt removal system allows seagulls to survive without freshwater sources.

5. They Fly Tens of Thousands of Miles per Year

Seagulls are among the longest-distance migratory birds. Some species fly astonishing distances each year in search of food and nesting sites:

  • Arctic Terns – Migrate from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back each year, covering over 40,000 miles!
  • Western Gulls – Migrate over 15,000 miles along the Pacific coast annually.
  • Laughing Gulls – Travel over 10,000 miles between North and South America.

6. They Have Mid-air Mating Rituals

Seagulls have elaborate mating dances…while flying!

Pairs will ascend several hundred feet in the air. Then they glide downward while pointing their beaks up and spreading their wings apart.

If interested, the female will synchronize her moves with the male as they spiral toward the ground. Once mates are bonded, they tend to stay monogamous for multiple seasons.

7. They Nest on the Ground and High Up

Seagulls and sunset

Seagulls nest in a variety of unusual spots:

  • Protected areas of sandy beaches
  • Rooftops of seaside buildings
  • On piers and buoys
  • High up on seaside cliffs

By nesting in hard-to-reach locations, seagull parents can protect their eggs and chicks from predators.

8. Their Eggs Are Extremely Varied

Seagulls lay 1-3 eggs that have different patterns depending on species. The color helps provide camouflage from predators. Some examples:

  • Herring Gull – Light brown with dark speckles
  • Ring-Billed Gull – Tan with black markings
  • Laughing Gull – Dark brown, green or blue

Both parents take turns incubating eggs for around three weeks before they hatch.

9. Chicks Start Flying at 4-6 Weeks Old

Seagull chicks grow very quickly! They are ready to make their first flight at only 4-6 weeks old.

To aid their rapid growth, parents provide a diet of regurgitated fish. By two months old, chicks are adept fliers and ready to migrate with their colony.

10. They Use Tools to Crack Open Shellfish

Seagulls are among the few animals that use tools. When dropping shellfish from heights doesn’t work, they’ve been observed using rocks to smash open their hardened prey.

Some have even been documented dropping shellfish onto crosswalks. Then they retrieve their meal when the light turns red and vehicles crack it open!

11. Their Poop Helps Fertilize Oceans

Seagull guano contains lots of nitrogen and phosphorus – nutrients that fertilize phytoplankton when it washes into the sea.

These tiny marine plants form the base of ocean food chains. So ironically, annoying seagull poop helps sustain sealife!

12. They Inspired Jonathan Livingston Seagull Book

In 1970, Richard Bach published a fictional novella about a seagull learning to fly for the joy of flight. Jonathan Livingston Seagull became a #1 bestseller and cultural phenomenon.

It reflected the free-spirited nature and determination of seagulls. The book remains popular today as a fable of self-perfection.

13. Their Agility Inspires Aircraft Designs

Seagulls maneuverability has been studied to improve aircraft.

Engineers have examined how gulls transition between gliding and flapping flight to reduce drag. Applying similar techniques has enhanced efficiency for planes and drones.

14. They Have Expandable Throat Pouches

Seagulls have stretchy pouches in their throats allowing them to gorge on food. They’ll quickly snatch up whatever they can when eating – cramming it into their expandable esophagus pouch.

Later, they regurgitate the stored food and eat more slowly. This helps them maximize eating during unpredictable feeding opportunities.

15. Their Feathers Are Waterproof

Seagulls have special feathers with tiny barbs that zip together. This creates a waterproof barrier locking out moisture.

It allows them to float on water and plunge below the surface when diving for food. They maintain this feather integrity by spreading oil from a gland near their tails.

16. They Have Long Lifespans

Seagulls can live over 15 years in the wild. With plentiful food from humans and lack of predators, their lifespans are increasing.

The oldest known Herring Gull was over 49 years old! It was banded in Poland and observed years later still breeding.

17. They Are Declining in Number

While often considered pests, many seagull species are declining in population. For example, Herring Gull numbers have dropped over 50% in recent decades.

Threats come from habitat loss, lack of food, pollution, hunting, and climate change. Their adaptability helps them survive better than other seabirds.

18. Some Species Are Endangered

Due to severe population declines, some species now have protected conservation status:

  • Audouin’s Gull – 80% population decrease. Now “Near Threatened” status.
  • California Gull – 50% drop in numbers. Listed as “Least Concern.”
  • Yellow-legged Gull – 30-49% fall in population. Now “Vulnerable” status.


While seagulls can certainly be loud, messy and aggressive, they are remarkably intelligent and resilient birds. Their ability to thrive around humans demonstrates incredible adaptation skills.

Hopefully this article provided some fascinating seagull facts to change your perspective! See them not as pests, but as the smart, enduring birds they are.

Next time you encounter these squawking scavengers on a beach, pier or parking lot, take a moment to admire their determination to survive. Just keep an eye on your picnic basket!

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