European Herring Gull
The European Herring Gull is very common across Europe. They eat fish, crustaceans (crabs and the like), and dead animals. They are also known to eat from plants; typically roots, seeds, grains, nuts, and fruit. It is common to see them following fishing trawlers and also scavenging around rubbish dumps.
There are many species of gull within the overall gull family. A typical male gull is 65cm long and weighs 1.3kg. Females are approximately twenty percent smaller.
When born, the young birds are mostly brown. By the time they reach sexual maturity (after about four years), they have adopted an adult plumage largely of white with grey patches.
In coastal towns (for example, around Torbay) gulls are well-known for their loud screeching calls. They communicate with each other using a series of calls and body language. In a dangerous situation for their chicks, the adults will call out to the chicks and even to other adults to come to their assistance.
Gulls are social animals but, like humans, know when to keep their distance from each other. If one gull finds food that it knows is too much for itself, it will call others to share the food. They can catch small animal prey but are not really predators, preferring food that is more easily available.
They are actually quite good at reducing the rat population in urban areas; not by eating the rats but by eating the food that the rats would normally eat.
Gulls have good vision; being able to see during the day and the night, even detecting ultra-violet light.
They are often seen dancing in fields, stamping on the earth in an attempt to get earth worms to come to the surface to meet a fate in the stomachs of the gulls.
They can drink fresh water and sea water. To stop their bodies building up too much salt content, they have glands which remove excess salt from their bodies and drip it out as a liquid through their nostrils.
Like (most) humans, they bond for life: but only if the pair is able to hatch eggs. Gulls have been known to live for over forty years. They rear, typically, three chicks a year. Young chicks are able to fly after about a month but will continue to be fed by their parents until about four months old.
Gulls have little fear of people and are not put-off by the techniques that people use to keep them away. Once they figure out that any method of scaring them is of little actual harm, they ignore it.
Gulls know how to have fun, often dive-bombing people who threaten their chicks or who have something good to eat.