Seagulls. If they’re not pooping on our heads, they’re stealing our chips.
Has this been your experience?
Whole pieces of fish, ice creams, iPhones, slow moving children. These feathered thieves don’t discriminate. It’s all theirs for the taking!
I’ve never had anything stolen by a seagull, but I remember the horrifying moment when one singled me out. It dislodged its lunch from its rear and angled it at me overhead with such precision, that it simultaneously hit my face, hair, back of my school jumper and front of my shoes.
It’s at times like this one stops and ponders life’s biggest question…why me?
I have to admit, it’s hilarious when all this thievery and poopery happens to others. Not so hilarious when you’re the butt of the joke.
Seagulls are now reported to have unusually high cholesterol due to eating fried foods. So maybe the joke is on them?
To that end, behold my latest menacing creation, aptly named ‘Chip bandit’!
Another masterful drawing derived from Mr Slager’s awesome photography. This silver seagull was shot (…with a camera) at Luna Park, Sydney several years ago.
This piece was achieved using a neutral palette of colour pencils on white watercolour paper (although the photo seems to show it as yellow).
This piece was completed over a week. I have compiled a few work in progress drawing images into the below 1 minute video, complete with the sound of crashing waves.
The only thing that can one-up all this seagull tomfoolery of course is magpie bicycle violence. I’ve had my face scratched, sunglasses knocked off and my dignity set to naught by those raptors.
If you see me out riding these days, I look a lot like Anna Wintour: massive wrap-around sunglasses and a haute couture helmet embellished with the latest in high-fashion cable ties.
Random seagull facts (rated M for mature audiences)
But back to those pesky seagulls.
As always, the internet is a petri dish of highly accurate and interesting facts.
I found a few stories involving seagulls, however, I’ve chosen to leave them out as they involved rather unsettling seaside kidnappings and murder. The kind of baffling, uncouth murder plot only Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple could unravel.
I dug deeper to find something a little less grim and a little more PG.
I happened upon this one.
Niko Tinbergen and his red spot special
In the mid-20th century, Dutch scientist, Niko Tinbergen noted that some species of seagull (herring gull) all have a red spot on their beak. He studied this further and noticed newly hatched chicks would peck at the red spot in the adult, indicating they needed to be fed. Without doing this, they aren’t fed and don’t survive.
He devised field experiments, varying the shape and colour of the beak using basic cardboard and sticks. It became clear the spot was the crucial cue for the chicks to demand food.
At the time, experts debated whether the behaviour was learned or innate. In fact, it seems there was an obsession with the idea that everything was learned or could be taught, and nothing could possibly be innate.
Based on his own field experiments, Tinbergen made the case that the behaviour was instinctive. His research eventually lay the groundwork for the science of animal behaviour and earned him a Noble Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1973.*
Some have since found flaws in Tinbergen’s experiments, saying he fudged the figures.
Some also questioned the decision to award him a physiology or medicine prize, asserting he was just a “mere animal watcher”. Tinbergen answered this by stating the revival of the “watching and wondering” approach when studying behaviour, could contribute to relief of human suffering.
He later went on to use his technique to make breakthroughs in the understanding of psychiatric illnesses such as anguish, compulsive obsession etc.
You can read more about Dr Tinbergen here (nobelprize.org). You will see he doesn’t look like the Muppet’s Dr Bunsen Honeydew as I have demonstrated for comedic purposes, although he does wear glasses!
Whether instinct or learned, there is no denying these birds are probably far more complicated than we realise. Having the opportunity to observe animal behaviour provides humans with both delight and awe.
Conclusion: how to stop seagulls stealing your chips
According to “scientists”, the best we can do to deter a seagull’s chip stealing behaviour is to stare at them. So, by all means get your revenge by staring this guy down over at my shop!
(Note, no chips were harmed in the making of this artwork)
* Source: https://www.audubon.org/news/why-do-gulls-have-red-spot-their-bills