Gull interaction

23 January 2019

Interactions between gulls and humans, including infrastructure. Good or bad for the bird?

Everyone knows that gulls come in large flocks, and that sometimes these flocks can be a nuisance. Famously, flocks of gulls on the beach love to mob people eating hot chips.

At the cricket, sometimes the ground is crowded with Silver Gulls. It can be a bit of a problem. Occasionally, a particularly well hit ball hits a gull on the way to the boundary. Remember the "Sammy the Seagull" incident a few years ago, when the bird was stunned by the ball?

It all ended well though, when the gull was carried off the field and subsequently recovered, much to the amusement of the crowd.

Sometimes the interaction isn't in the best interests of the gulls. A recent thread on the Birding-Aus newsgroup suggested that highly lit infrastructure (think stadiums or something like the Arts Centre tower in Melbourne) is a risk to birds like Silver Gulls.

The jury is still out about whether the light has trapped the birds (maybe because they're unable to see out of the lit zone and unwilling to risk running into something) or whether they're happily scoffing insects that are attracted to the light.

My wife, who's knowledgeable in these things, says it'd be an easy study for a zoology student doing an honours thesis. There are a number of experiments that would shed light (no pun intended) on the subject.

First, repeatedly count the birds in the flock and see if it changes in size over the evening. This would show whether the light zone is a trap from which birds can't escape.

Second, follow an individual using binoculars (like to see if it leaves the zone, and what it does while flying around the lights.

Are interactions between humans and gulls good or bad for the birds? What do you think?