Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Laughing Gull on Sanibel Island

Laughing Gull on Sanibel Island

We just returned from our vacation to Sanibel Island and Ft. Myers, Florida and it is so nice to get a break from the cold winters in Chicago. As a part of my work on the Biomimicry Professional Certificate Program, I get to do site observations called iSites. During this time, I have the luxury to think and observe nature while trying to tune out distractions - not always easy for a mom with two small kids. For this iSite, I was to imagine my life as an organism I observed, and the seagulls on Sanibel Island are ubiquitous.

I feel a bit like I am cheating on my iSite to talk about the sea gulls at Sanibel. I threw down a cracker and within three minutes, there were about 20 birds hovering over me. Yes, I know I'm not supposed to feed the wildlife, but sometimes you get great pictures that way!

If I were a seagull, I would spend much of my time waiting for humans on the beach to leave or throw food. I would not be that dissimilar to a vulture in my feeding habits. When humans are not around as much, I scavenge and swim for crabs and shrimps. I coexist nicely with other shore birds, but we are very competitive over food. I have agile wings and can catch food in the air. I'm an omnivore. I'm not picky. Most of my cousins scavenge in parking lots and landfills, so by comparison I'm very classy.

My special niche is my ability to take advantage of areas where humans or other organisms have changed the habitat substantially. While I prefer to breed in coastal marshes and beaches, human modification of this habitat does not bother me. My colony mates and I adapt well. We make our nests of grasses.

I have few natural preditors. Some herring gulls feed on my eggs if I am not careful, but beyond the search for food I have little population control. You will find me everywhere on the coast.

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