Sunday, August 20, 2006
How to feed a seagull
Here on the Island we have thousands of resident seagulls, mainly Laughing Gulls but a fair mixture of others, including kind one with brownish feathers that my Texas bird book is completely bird-brained about. Anyway, there is an art to feeding them. First, never throw food from balconies, and they will gladly crap all over the property – many condos prohibit the practice for that very reason.
The second most common mistake is to throw chips up in the air and scream, as most kids on the beach like to do. Throwing the chips in the air and the seagull-sounding squawk makes them more aggressive and want to attack the chip-thrower, or at least do their pooh-pooh thing even more. They will attempt to steal food from each other, which is one of their nastier habits that should not be encouraged. No, no, that is not how to feed seagulls in the least, and I wouldn’t have believed it until I saw it done right recently.
Our “ammo” for the afternoon was organic chips, stale low-salt cashews, and some … cooked angel hair spaghetti noodles, of all things. Yes, nothing but the best leftovers for our seagulls here, and no empty carbs from white bread and junk food.
So we had set up camp on the beach in one of those Wal-Mart cabanas with our comfortable butt-seats and coolers, and proceeded to emplace the ammo out for grazing. Simply take a handful of the “fire in the hole” stuff and place it on the beach in a pile. It’s really that simple. No throwing!
There’s always a scout so a mess of birds will show up real quick, including several kinds of sandpipers and other shorebirds. The skettie really fools them good and you never saw better table manners from a flock of birds in your life. They land and walk on over as if asking if they can partake in the table fare. Some will grab a bite and walk to the water wash it like a raccoon, bobbing their heads appreciatively. The only pecking that happens is when they attack a sick or weak bird, which is a natural instinct for them.
So by now we have a couple of fine-feathered bird friends, the daring ones that will come right up to be fed like a pigeon in the park. The occasional almond or monkey nut kind of throws them for a loop, which is rather hysterical because they try so hard to perform so mannerly for us. The sandpipers like it when we smash some stale organic chips and pour a trail in the wet sand, since the seagulls can only find the big bites and the little guys go for the tiny crumbs. Big and small, they seem to get along like a chaperoned teen party.
Good food for good friends is what I say.