Michigan gulls: Humans love to watch them; other birds are wary

June 19, 2001

ANN ARBOR—Though “sea gulls” are the colloquial name for the pesky birds hanging around Michigan parking lots, lakes and beaches, “there are no seas nearby, so these birds cannot be sea gulls,” points out Janet Hinshaw, the collection manager of the bird division of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.

“Two kinds of birds living in Michigan are often referred to as sea gulls,” says Hinshaw. “One is the ring-billed gull, which is common around Ann Arbor, and the other is the larger herring gull. Both are found around inland lakes and the Great Lakes, as well as on the East Coast.”

In natural settings these gulls eat fish and carrion, and steal food from other animals. Gulls populate sand and gravel bars along or in the larger lakes, causing problems for other birds, because “they are aggressive and will eat almost anything, including eggs and baby birds of other gulls, terns and shorebirds, which are not so abundant,” says the zoologist.

“Besides eating fish, gulls in Michigan tend to feed at garbage dumps,” she notes. The gull population has increased dramatically in the last 50 years due to garbage dumps providing lots of food.” Surprisingly, “some other rare kinds of gulls show up at the Ann Arbor dump, such as lesser black-backed gull, so local bird watchers like to go gull watching there, especially in the fall and winter.”

For more information on Michigan gulls, contact Janet Hinshaw at [email protected] or (734) 764-0457. People interested in Michigan birds can join an e-mail group, [email protected].

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