How Long Do Seagulls Live?
Seagulls can live for decades. That’s a lot of time to snag snacks from unsuspecting people! There are more than 40 species of gulls, and lifespans vary between them. The oldest known lesser black-backed gull (a European species) lived to be 34, and the oldest herring gull, a common species in North America, lived to be at least 29. Seagull lifespan can vary widely, even within a species—most lesser black-backed gulls live for around 15 years.
To study how long seagulls live, scientists attach leg bands to birds and track them over time. When they band them, scientists estimate how old the birds are based on their feathers, which look different as nestlings, juveniles, and adults. Banding birds like this lets scientists discover interesting things about their lives. One elderly seagull living in Bristol in the United Kingdom, for example, retired to the sunny climate of southern Spain at the end of its life!
Curious about these clever, adaptable avian animals? Now that you know how long seagulls live, check out some other seagull facts.
What Do Seagulls Eat?
Seagulls eat a wide variety of foods, from shellfish and fish to abandoned french fries and sandwiches—and they’re experts at finding just the right places to dine!
Near the ocean, they track the tides and know when to arrive at a beach to find their favorite foods. They’ll even drop shellfish onto rocks to crack them open. Over farmland, seagulls are known to follow tractors and eat the worms that get unearthed when the soil is tilled. And in cities, they learn the schedules of humans, who tend to eat (and drop or throw away food) at similar times every day. One study tracking seagulls found they flew from school to school in a city to take advantage of kids’ different lunchtimes! Researchers studying herring gulls have also found that they watch what people eat and will choose it over other foods.
Do Seagulls Migrate?
Many species of seagulls, including some of the most common, migrate. In Europe, one population of lesser black-backed gulls travels thousands of miles every year from Finland and Russia to East Africa. In North America, the Franklin’s gull travels from Canada all the way to South America. And the aptly named California gull migrates from the plains of the United States and Canada to the Pacific coast.
Like other birds (and more than a few travel-loving humans!), seagulls that migrate spend the winter in warmer climates and the summer in cooler areas.
How Do Seagulls Sleep?
Seagulls like to sleep in groups, which helps them stay protected from predators. They also open one eye every so often to check what’s going on around them. One scientist from the University of Montreal has noticed that seagull sleep seems to be a social affair. If the birds around them are sleeping, seagulls sleep more heavily. If they’re the only ones asleep, they check their surroundings for danger more often.
Why Do Seagulls Stand on One Leg?
“Does that bird have one leg?” Seagulls are so good at standing on one leg that sometimes it’s hard to tell whether they have a second leg at all! The most common theory about why they do it is that it helps keep their bodies at the right temperature. During cold weather, standing on one leg allows seagulls to tuck the other leg up into their feathers, which keeps it warmer than it would be if it was touching the cold ground or ice. In hot weather, seagulls often do the opposite, standing with both legs in cool water to help keep them from overheating.
Looking for a few laughs with a kid who loves seagulls? Seagull jokes are fantastic fun. Try out one of the most famous, then enjoy some more just from us!
You may have heard this famous joke about seagulls:
Why do seagulls fly over the sea?
Because if they flew over the bay, they’d be called bagels.
And here are some more seagull jokes especially from Little Passports:
What’s a seagull’s favorite kind of math?
Learning about an-gulls.
What comes after beagle in the animal alphabet?
What did they call the first seagull in space?
A gull-actic explorer
Where do seagulls go on vacation?
The Gull-apagos Islands
What do seagulls wear when it rains?
What do you call a seagull with great eyesight?