If you’ve ever gone on a beach vacation with my parents, you know there are two rules when it comes to playing in the sun. Rule 1: Never turn your back on the sea.Second rule: never (I mean no way) to feed a seagull your leftover Thrasher fries. You broke the first rule, you might get wiped out by the waves and end up with some scrapes, but you might survive. You broke the second rule and my family might leave you on the beach.

While a swarm of scavenging gulls scrambling for leftovers at the foot of your beach tent can be enough to ruin a good vacation, the call of the gulls and the crashing of the waves brings a Pavlovian sense of calm.I can almost It feels like my toes are in the sand. Seriously, seagulls aren’t all bad. Let’s get to know them better with these four reasons to love seagulls.

1. It is really difficult to distinguish the types of seagulls

Seagulls, also known simply as “seagulls”, are part of the seabird family known as Laridae. The name comes from a Greek word meaning “greedy seabird” (shocking, I know.) Seagulls are closely related to other birds like terns and skimmers. More than 50 species of seagulls are found on every continent in the world, including Antarctica. Identifying a specific seagull species with an untrained eye can be very difficult. About 25 species have been found in North America alone, and the birds my mom has been keeping away from Bethany Beach for decades are probably the smaller black-backed gulls and laughing gulls.

2. Seagulls eat more than your leftovers

Sure, sometimes they bomb your lunch, but seagulls eat more than just leftovers. Seagulls are omnivores and apparently they are not fussy. Seagulls off the coast of Argentina have been recorded to bite off chunks of the back of juvenile southern right whales. It is said that when the first pioneer Mormons settled in Utah in 1848, swarms of crickets attacked their crops, only to be thwarted by swarms of California gulls eating them. Utah even named the California seagull its state bird and erected a statue after it. However, seagulls’ main diet usually includes fish, crustaceans and rodents – they don’t care whether their prey is dead or alive. Yes, they actually eat carrion that washes ashore. Between this and the bugs, I found this to be another reason to appreciate the hustle and bustle of seagulls.

flock of seagulls on the beachflock of seagulls on the beach
© Rob Peterson

3. Seagulls can drink salt water

Another rule for our family beach trip: don’t drink sea water. Salt water in our bodies dehydrates us faster. But seagulls have something called a supraorbital gland above their eyes that helps remove salt from the blood. This process, known as desalination, is an excellent ability to survive by the sea. Next time you’re at the beach, keep an eye out for seagulls sneezing. If you look closely, you can even see some salt secretions at the end of the gull’s beak.

4. Seagulls have strong family bonds

Seagulls are usually monogamous birds that gather in large flocks of hundreds. This helps them protect each other from predators, especially during the breeding season. Seagulls are also very attentive parents, with both parents involved in hatching and caring for the offspring until they fly out of the nest.

Although seagulls obviously have different rules of beach etiquette, they should still live on healthy, litter-free beaches. Learn more about what you can do to make a difference on your next family beach trip.

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