The speak to of the gull is distinct and also piercing. From water or parking lot, gulls have the right to be found pretty much anywhere. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
If you live in downtown St. John's choose I do, or without doubt near any body the water the attracts seagulls, you've heard the cacophonous squawking the gulls piercing with the wee hours of the morning.

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And, choose me, you more than likely shoved your head in your pillow and also thought, "WHHHHY?"

After a sleepless night, I fixed to acquire to the bottom that the incessant cawing, and to discover an explanation. 

I called up three seabird biologists. Ian Jones is a biology professor and seabird specialist in ~ Memorial college in St. John's, Cerren Richards is a master's student researching seabirds at MUN's s Sciences Centre, and Selena Flores is a doctor student in Plettenberg Bay, southern Africa, where she's worked among massive gull nests with the Nature sink Trust.

The gruesome answer: cani-gulls

I an initial assumed that gulls do noise throughout mating rituals. But Richards provided me a much an ext unsettling answer.

"When the gulls very first hatch, the chicks start to hover around. And the neighbors next door  will actually shot to eat the other chicks," stated Richards.

"So the parents are actually defending your chicks from your neighbours."


Cannibals! as soon as I inquiry Flores, who has actually spent a most time around big gull colonies, whether she's witnessed these brutish plot of gull-on-gull cannibalism, she cheerily said, "Oh yeah! Constantly!"

Flores said the cannibalistic attacker one of two people chases away the parents or waits for the parental to leave on a foraging expedition so it deserve to dig v the nest and also find an easy meal.

"They definitely eat each other's chicks, every the means up come them being a couple weeks old," she said.

"And castle swallow lock in one gulp."

The food because that the small gulls is additionally fair game. 

"They'll even pester to make them regurgitate — fancy scientific word because that vomit — their food for this reason they have the right to actually steal your meals," claimed Flores.

The noise we hear could well it is in a brave parental standing in the face of hazard to safeguard its children from being eaten alive.

The healthy answer: gull-duation

When I carried up this callous acts come Jones, he confirmed that this does happen and could be the case, but argued a different answer based on his monitorings with regional colonies.


Either method you look at it, the noise we hear about this time is gulls being an excellent parents. And, choose all good parents, gulls go out of their method to execute what's ideal for their chicks. We frequently see adult gulls rummaging v our trash, however when they collect food for their children they only gain the an option cuts.

"The adult gulls are not regularly bringing ago human food come the chicks," stated Flores. "They're fairly going the end to sea (once the chicks hatch) to feed them far more nutritious wild food prefer fish and squid."

Gulls have the right to sense your fear

Working in big gull swarms can it is in a confusing business. Gulls aren't fond that intruders, and also avidly show distaste to those walking with the colony.

"They just want come nuke every little thing threat is there, and also they will use all the ammo they have," claimed Flores. "Whether it's their mouth, your rear-end, or screaming, or dive-bombing, they'll execute what they deserve to to make sure it's very unpleasant because that you to be in their colony."


But, together Flores advises brand-new interns, instead of cowering it's best to stand tall and also assert dominance; gulls deserve to tell once their intimidation tactics aren't working.

Flores described that as soon as the gulls gained used to she voice, they stopped attacking and even allow her near the nests.

Why room gulls everywhere?

Although all 3 scientists said that many seabird populaces are dwindling, common gulls have adapted to thrive among humans.

After 300 year of virtually limitless food supplemented by person discards, the local gull populaces exploded, said Jones.

"Their population is probably 10 or much more times as big as it would have actually been prior to Europeans came down on the continent," stated Jones, and added that "more 보다 10,000 the them acquire their food in ~ the Robin Hood only landfill."

In addition to gift noisy, huge populations of city gulls deserve to have serious an adverse effects on human being life.

Gulls, he said, posture "an excessive problem" at St. John's international Airport, because "they constitute an waiting strike hazard to commercial aircraft." 

Jones also added that after ~ foraging in the landfill, gulls favor to bathe and defecate in Windsor Lake, possibly risking the contamination of the St. John's water supply.

Don't blame the gulls

It is straightforward to make gulls the villains, however all three scientists insisted the gulls are just a symptom that our own lifestyle.

Richards said component of the reason gulls rely so much on our garbage is that their herbal food sources are decreasing, forcing them come eat food that is less nutritious but easier come get.

"We find them more coming to land currently to uncover food in our garbage because they're struggling to discover food the end at sea a many the time," stated Richards.

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According come Jones, if we desire to keep our gull populations in check we should change our own waste administration practices and cover ours trash.