All Photos posted on this blog unless otherwise noted were taken by me with my Canon Rebel XTI using a 300 mm zoom lens

Sunday, June 13, 2010

California Gull

The California Gull is probably the first encounter I ever had with birds. When I was a kid we used to take bread out in our front yard on Sunday afternoons when we would hear the call of gulls flying over. We would break the bread in small pieces and throw them in the street. 1st one gull would come and then within minutes there were gulls coming in ten or twenty at a time squabbling over the pieces of bread. It was great fun to bring in the "Sea Gulls", I always thought they were pretty and a lot of fun to watch.

Though considered by many as garbage birds and obnoxious, you can't help but admire their ability to adapt and survive. Gulls can and will eat just about anything. Of course you will see them at city dumps scavenging for food through the garbage but you will also see them following fishing boats hoping and waiting for scraps. You will also see them following tractors on freshly plowed fields eating earthworms, they hang out at parks and ponds where people are recreating looking for a handout, stealing food from picnic tables or scavenging left behind scraps of food through litter. At the Great Salt Lake you can see them with head down and beak opened running through swarms of Brine Flies scooping up the little flies by the hundreds. It is this ability to adapt and eat anything that helped save the crops of Mormon Pioneers that settled the Great Salt Lake Valley resulting in the California Gull eventually being named the Utah State Bird.

The California gull, Larus californicus, was selected as the state bird of Utah by an act of the legislature in 1955 (Utah Code).
The gull is considered the state bird of Utah by common consent, probably in commemoration of the fact that these gulls saved the people of the State by eating up the Rocky mountain crickets which were destroying the crops in 1848.

Orson F. Whitney says that in the midst of the devastation of the crickets, "when it seemed that nothing could stay the devastation, great flocks of gulls appeared, filling the air with their white wings and plaintive cries, and settled down upon the half-ruined fields. All day long they gorged themselves, and when full, disgorged and feasted again, the white gulls upon the black crickets, list hosts of heaven and hell contending, until the pests were vanquished and the people were saved." After devouring the crickets, the gulls returned "to the lake islands whence they came."The gull is about two feet long. The color of this bird is pearly-blue. It is sometimes barred or streaked with blackish gray. Aeronautic wizards, gulls are gymnasts of the sky, making the seemingly impossible appear effortless. They can appear motionless in midair by catching wind currents with perfect timing and precision while positioning their bodies at just the right angle. They are quiet birds, considered quite beneficial by agriculturalists, and are usually gentle creatures, exhibiting neither antagonism to nor fondness for man.
The Sea Gull Monument in Salt Lake City honors the gull, Utah's state bird. Two sculptured gulls stand atop the monument which was unveiled in 1913. Temple Square information.
One of my favorite books is Jonathan Livingston Seagull
We lived in California for a few years and one of the many things Californians thought was weird about Utah and Utahans was that the California Gull is our State Bird.
Love them or hate them you have to admit they are resourceful and they are beautiful; perhaps some humans are jealous of a creature that is so adaptable and intelligent.
California Gulls love brine shrimp and brine flies and nest on the wide open mud flats around the Great Salt Lake. The largest concentrations of California Gulls in the world nest at the Great Salt lake and are one of the birds that have given the Great Salt Lake the distinction of being designated as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Preserve.


john said...

This is your best blog post yet. Great gull photos, and historical information. In my neck of the woods, Mew Gulls are the common species. They are certainly under-appreciated.

*lindsey said...

Hi Steve! I'm one of Kristan's friends, I met you long ago and stayed at your house when Catie was in that singing contest. I remember your big bird that sat on your shoulder! Just wanted to say hi!