English Gull Good, Australian Seagull Bad

Seagull European Style Photographer Adrian Pingstone July 2013 (source Wikipedia Commons)

Seagull European Style Photographer Adrian Pingstone July 2013 (source Wikipedia Commons)

Seagulls might not have the same appeal to my readers as Kookaburras and Rainbow Lorikeets (see my previous post), but for me, they remain part of my sensory memory of living in England. Back in September 2013 I did a post called Summer’s Days at Westgate-on-Sea in which I explained that. Here is the relevant extract:

“There is a sound that is synonymous with these visits.  The type of sound that if you hear it on the radio or in a movie, it transports you back to that place, or that time.  For me and Westgate-on-Sea, (or Birchington, or Minnis Bay), it is the call of the seagulls of this area.

Did you ever see the film “Finding Nemo?”  In that film, Australian seagulls are depicted as a villainous and greedy lot, with a call that sounds like “mine, mine, mine” (you can look it up on  YouTube under Finding Nemo – MINE. I am not sure if adding it as a link here would breach copyright).

Australian seagulls are a small bird, with beady eyes and a bright red beak.  They are urbanised, without fear, eternal scavengers, and found in great numbers on every beach.  And they do squawk and squabble over every morsel of food they can spot, just as depicted in the film by the short and sharp “mine” voice.

The seagulls of Thanet are different.  They are a much larger bird for a start, and their beak is longer and a yellow colour, but it is their call that attracts my attention.  I only ever hear one bird at a time.  It is a repetitive work-up call, with a long, lamenting fade at the end.  It is a lonely and haunting sound that reminds me of lost souls.  It is as if the gull has crossed the channel calling and calling for their loved one, only to fall away disappointed at the end.  It makes me think of Emily Bronte’s Catherine running along a windswept coast, calling in vain for her Heathcliff.”

Disney Films got the behaviour of our seagulls correct, but the computer animation graphic of them is closer to the European Gull of the above photo. When Michael Rayner provided me the Kookaburra photos in the previous post, he included photos of the seagulls who make great use of our ornamental pool. He tells me their correct name is Silver Gulls. In the photo below, the bird in flight is missing part of his leg. It is very common to see one-legged seagulls in this part of the world!

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From my perspective, English Gulls evoke introspective and positive emotions plus a comforting sense of place. Australian seagulls certainly remind me I am “home” and on familiar ground, but as for writing inspiration, introspective thinking, and positive emotions? Meh. I can take them or leave them.

Michael’s photos are great though, and the source of inspiration for this post, so for that I am grateful to our feathery neighbours.

Footnote: I struggled with a title for this post, finally turning to George Orwell’s Animal Farm for inspiration – “Four legs good, two legs bad”, as often quoted by the sheep. Which has absolutely nothing to do with seagulls, and I’m pretty sure there wasn’t even one in the book. Which just proves inspiration can come from the most obscure, unexpected places!

 

17 thoughts on “English Gull Good, Australian Seagull Bad

  1. As an Australian travelling in Portugal, I marvelled at these seagulls which are much larger than their southern counterparts. They also ride the wind above waves like an albatross. I’ve never seen the Aussie ones do that. They also have a distinctly different call as you say, and don’t seem to scavenge at all. They are far more graceful and majestic.

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  2. I agree with the silver gull name.
    I think the larger well spoken English ones may well be the pacific gull or very similar.
    The reason for ours having a foot or leg missing is they get them bitten off by salmon during a feeding frenzy.

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  3. I’m a fan of seagulls, but it’s been a torrid time for gulls over the summer with calls for culling in various parts of the UK. It reached fever pitch so much so that even the Prime Minister became involved – just to let you know how seriously our government takes the problems of our country and the wider world!!! Here’s a link to the ‘gull controversy’ not exactly Watergate. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/18/seagull-attacks-david-cameron-big-conversation

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    • Thanks for that link! I am not sure how one tells if a tortoise is subdued, does it pull its head in? (that’s a joke). Actually, even a couple of years back when I was in Thanet, people were grumbling about the gulls, and calling for culls. They did not share my romantic view at all!

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      • On the whole I’m a live and let live person and in most cases wildlife skedaddles the second they perceive a human on their radar. I think some gulls have become more confident since some people feed them – familiarity breeds contempt?

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        • Well our seagulls certainly have no fear. Very much like pigeons, as soon as you sit down with any food near them they cluster around. I think, however, that is their inbred behaviour. Yours are different – they seem more loners to me, whereas ours run in packs. So perhaps it has been as a result of enticing them. I don’t think ours are big enough to do the kind of damage as quoted in that newspaper article. In fact, I saw the reverse one day. A raven attacked and killed one of the seagulls. Made a proper mess of it.

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          • Oh goodness that sounds pretty grim. I’m a wimp. I appreciate the incredible and diverse world we live in, but as soon as it gets down and bloody I can’t look. It’s bad enough burying the picked over remains.

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          • It was grim – but – amazing as well. I’d never seen such a thing. Had never imagined it possible, even though I well know that Aussie crows and ravens have a reputation for maiming sheep and leaving them to die. I just had not thought through what that might look like in real life. I watched from my balcony through the binoculars, so I wasn’t right on top of it. There were no remains.

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  4. There used to be a one legged seagull riding the Manly Ferry not that long ago, I used to see it regularly when living in Manly and was guiding at the ANMM and enjoying my trip across the Harbour each Tuesday and Wednesday. Proper little scavenger it was and quite fearless.

    I think you’ll find that those clips posted on YouTube are in the public domain and are not subject to copyright.

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    • You were guiding at ANMM? Sigh. I applied for one of those jobs but didn’t get past the first post. And I was living a bit further up the road towards the fish market, so it would have been very handy, although nowhere near as delightful as starting your shift on the Manly Ferry, complete with one-legged seagull. I can’t remember now if the ANMM role was paying or volunteer, but I would have loved to be part of the team. My shipping career stared in Port Adelaide back in the early 70s, and hubbie was a tally clerk in Sydney from about the same time, and once I got involved with ships and cargo, “regular” jobs didn’t interest me. Thanks for the tip about YouTube. I thought that might be the case, but decided not to tempt fate.

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