What Do Seagulls Eat?
It might be a stretch to say that seagulls love human beings. But it’s not an exaggeration to say that seagulls love hanging around people and living in proximity to where a lot of us hang out.
The reason is simple: Food.
Seagulls are highly opportunistic birds. They have worked it out that the human beings they share the planet with are a fabulous source of free meals.
Why hunt and scavenge for your own food in the wild when there’s plenty of folks willing to offer snacks and yummy seagull nosh like manna falling from heaven?
Anyone who has been to a beach is familiar with seagulls hanging around and approaching people to beg, or frequently steal food. Lots of people bring treats with them to the beach to toss to the seagulls.
Popcorn is a favorite, but bits of bread, chips, a bit of sandwich meat or basically anything packed in a picnic lunch will be eagerly gulped down by a seagull.
Wildlife biologists tell us that seagulls are omnivores. That means they eat anything and everything across the board, from fruits, grains and vegetables to any kind of meat product.
Seagulls are water-centric birds so they are most often seen near ocean fronts and beaches. However, they readily fly into city areas where there are parking lots and fast-food restaurants. They have figured it out that these locations tend to have a lot of food dropped, placed within easy reach in a dumpster or just willingly handed out by people who like to feed their feathered friends.
Many people simply get a kick out of handing a few crunchy French fries to a seagull as they exit a fast-food joint.
One of the largest human-derived sources of food for seagulls are landfills, especially those that are near coastal cities. It’s common to see thousands of seagulls circling above the dunes of landfill waste and scavenging for food that gets tossed into the garbage.
But is all this human food healthy for seagulls? After all, a McDonald’s French fry can’t be considered the natural diet of a bird that evolved over millions of years while developing their optimal nutritional profiles.
The answer is that human junk food is generally unhealthy for seagulls just as too much of it is unhealthy for people. On the other hand, they get a lot of variety from their human-derived diets. They get a mixture of vegetable matter and meat.
Don’t forget that seagulls also continue to seek natural foods, such as scavenging dead fish that wash up on beaches, minnows, insects, worms and more. Even so, wildlife biologists urge people not to feed seagulls fatty, salty and sugary foods.
What do baby seagulls eat?
If you have read this far, there is probably a powerful question burning in your mind. It’s this: “What about baby seagulls? What do seagulls eat right after they hatch?”
The answer to what do seagulls eat as babies (called “squabs”) is interesting because wildlife biologists note that, during their breeding season, adult seagulls abandon their relentless pursuit of human food and flutter off to natural breeding locations. These are generally off-coast on islands or in remote locations along beaches.
In these places, there will be no kindly person with a handy bag of Cheetos to provide free snacks.
What do seagulls eat in the wild?
Seagulls in breeding grounds eat small fish, dead fish, fry, insects, worms and more. However, they perhaps more often steal food from other birds that are good hunters, such as pelicans. Thus, seagulls maintain their M.O. of swiping food from others, except in this case, its other birds.
Seagulls work in coordinated gangs. Some take the role of harassing and distracting pelicans while others swoop in to snatch away their food.
It’s interesting to note that seagulls will not feed their young human trash. Squabs enjoy natural diets until they get old enough to go after human food.
It must be said, however, that seagulls do catch a lot of their own food even while breeding. They favor a method of skimming small prey near the surface of the water, such as insects and invertebrate animals or small creatures that paddle near the surface.
By the way, it is the male seagull who handles most of the feeding duties shortly after their babies hatch. The mother is busy doing the brooding and guarding of the young.