This week’s photo, taken January 22, 2013 along the shore of Lake Washington at Matthew’s Beach, Seattle, WA, features a RING-BILLED GULL, one of North America’s most common gulls.
Gullible adj. Easily deceived or duped. I used to be gullible. In fact, for many years I tricked myself into believing that you could be a fairly serious bird-watcher without ever admitting that gulls are birds. I convinced myself that gulls actually are funny-looking people with webbed feet. After all, they often exhibit human-like behavior. Gulls gather in large groups. They argue, they fight, they don’t like to share their food with others, and they will steal other people’s food, if they get the chance. Gulls can also be very loud and obnoxious. You may not know any people like that, but I have met a few.
That line of logic worked well for me while I was leading bird walks at Rancho La Puerta Fitness Resort in Tecate, Mexico for 10 years. The resort is about 30 miles inland, so there are no significant bodies of water nearby, other than the spa’s 3 swimming pools. Hiking is common there. Yoga is common there. Gulls, on the other hand, are extremely rare there, and I was ok with their absence. I easily entertained myself observing the many non-gull bird species on the property.
But 5 months ago I moved to Seattle, where water surrounds us and gulls fly above us. Finally, after some deep thought and a little therapy, I now accept the fact that a gull is a type of bird. I have discovered that the more you study gulls, the more interesting they become. Gulls’ bodies and bills come in various sizes. Some gulls have yellow legs, and some have pink legs. Some have light eyes, some have dark eyes, and some have attractive rings of red around their eyes.
During the short time I have lived here, I have noticed that while many local, experienced birders can identify most adult gulls in the Pacific Northwest, if someone asks them to identify an immature gull, they often confess that they have no idea. Therefore, I have decided that young gulls become birds only when they reach adulthood. Until then, they are nothing more than weird-looking, misbehaving young humans with webbed feet.