why are there seagulls inland

Why Are There Seagulls Inland? Know the Facts

Seagulls are often spotted inland and sometimes even miles from any coastal area. Their very name suggests that they are coastal living birds. So, why are there seagulls inland? 

But before we start on that, there is a small matter of semantics. There is actually no such bird as a seagull. If you look in any bird book or online listing, you will not find one. The correct name for these birds is gull, and that is how we will refer to them.

City squares are often filled with gulls, much to tourists’ delight and the annoyance of locals. But they are not only found in a city square. Gulls often flock to schoolyards as well as tall buildings

Why Have Gulls Moved Inland?

why are there seagulls inland

The Bristol University research on gulls indicated how urban gull colonies have increased. According to the data, the UK and Ireland have seen almost 50% more gulls between 2000 and 2015. In the year 2000, there were 239 gull colonies, while in 2015, there were 473. Why the increase? Analysts claim that urban areas are a huge attraction for gulls as they are filled with food waste, such as one of the gull’s favorite foods, chicken bones. 

It is clear that gulls love chicken bones- not just the experts can make this claim. In urban areas, humans don’t seem to appreciate the use of a waste bin, and if they do, gulls are expert scavengers. If you are in the city, simply keep a lookout for the chicken bones. There’s no doubt you’ll be able to spot them. 

Cities and urban areas make safe havens for gulls, despite the dangers humans can present. While humans can be a foe to gulls, there are other natural predators in coastal areas that are far more formidable foes. Urban areas can also provide more comfortable and sheltered nesting sites for the gulls. What’re more, cities and developed areas are typically warmer than rural or even coastal areas. 

Free Food For Gulls

In short, city living makes life easier for gulls, and there is never a short supply of food. 

Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and Herring Gulls typically make the coast their habitats and feed off the sea. But, what happens when the sea does not offer as much food? Experts suggest that the fishing industry has wreaked havoc on their habitat and food sources. The fishing industry is considered a significant factor in the gulls making their way inland to forage for food. 

Photo by Ingrid Dietrich

Author Note: Given their food sources at sea is in a steady decline and the constant abundance of food in urban areas, gulls are flocking to the urban areas, especially at rubbish dumps and areas with high amounts of food waste. 

Understanding Gulls

Gulls will make a safe surrounding their home. Believe it or not, urban areas with high-rise buildings can become safer surroundings for a gull. As we have already covered, there are fewer predators to threaten the gull. What’s more, there is typically an uninterrupted supply of food. 

While the number of gulls in urban areas is on the rise, the number of gulls on the coast is falling. 

Whether the gulls live on the coast or in urban areas, there is one thing that remains true about gulls- they are scavengers. Gulls are staunch survivalists, able to forage food wherever they may live. And this foraging includes stealing.

Unsuspecting tourists often find themselves the brute of what seems to be a cruel joke. Gulls have become quite adept at stealing food from people enjoying the seaside. The gulls are even known to steal sandwiches and lunch straight out of workers’ hands, trying to enjoy their lunchtime break. 

As more and more gulls join in the city buzz, they risk becoming pests. That’s if they are not already considered a pest in many urban areas. 

Did You Know? 

Up until the 21st century, gulls were called mews. This name is still used in some regional dialects. 

Photo by Imogen Warren

Physical Attributes of Gulls

Gulls can grow large in size but are typically medium to large. Their coloring is grey and white but will sometimes have black marks and the wings and head. gulls have study, long bills, and webbed feet. 

Gulls are not known for having a beautiful call. Instead, it is often described as a wail. The wails can often be harsh, loud, and squawking calls. 

Gulls will usually make their nests on the ground, but in the cities, they will flock to rooftops’ safety. The gull’s diet is predominantly carnivorous, and they have proved themselves to be opportunistic hunters- both in the wild and in cities. 

In their natural habitat, gulls will hunt crustaceans, fish, and mollusks. The gull is designed for eating prey larger than most would expect. Their jaws are not only for making eerie and annoying squawks- they can unhinge their jaws, allowing them to eat large prey. 

Most gulls’ natural habitat, aside from the Kittiwake species, is out at sea. The bigger gull species will typically grow for four years before their plumage turns into their adult feathers. Smaller gulls will only take two years to develop their matured plumage. 

Gull Living Habits

Seagull on a concrete slab

Gulls are seabirds from the Laridae family. Gulls are quite closely related to terns, one of the birds with the longest lifespan.  The longest living gull is large white-headed gulls that can live up to 40+ years. The gull with the longest lifespan is the herring gull that reached 49 years. 

Gulls will remain in large colonies. There is safety in numbers for these birds, but unfortunately, these large colonies are often noisy. Large species of gulls are characteristically resourceful, but they can be bullies too. But the bullying is generally defense five behavior and can often be misunderstood.

Author Note: Gulls will ‘attack’ larger threats, such as dangerous raptors, when they perceive them as a potential threat. Even if a raptor is perched peacefully on a pole, the gulls could launch into this attack, which demonstrates mobbing.

When nesting season arrives, gulls will make nests from vegetation and usually lay two to three eggs in these nests. Once the speckled eggs have hatched, a young gull will emerge with a mottled-down brown. Young gull hatchlings can move straight away after hatching. 

Did You Know? 

Some gulls will even prey on whales. And not deceased, immobile whales- but live ones. Gulls can sometimes peck on a whale’s flesh as the whale surfaces for air. 

Are Gulls Migratory?

Almost all species of gulls will partake in migration. Unless they are comfortable in the cities, they have made their home. But many gulls will migrate in the winter months to find warmer climates. The exact details of migration will change according to the species.

The Franklin’s Gull, for example, is known to travel long distances for their annual migration. The Franklin’s Gull will travel from Canada down to the very southern areas of South American. But not all gulls will travel so far; some will only spread out along the coastal areas where they live, possibly moving into the warmer urban surroundings. 

Birds will also flock inland when there is a natural weather threat on the horizon. Birds may be much smaller than us humans, but they have senses highly attuned to their surroundings. Even the slightest change in air pressure and weather causes a bird to seek shelter inland and in the more urban areas.

There are reports indicating just how far inland gulls travel when an earthquake is threatening to rumble the earth. Sailors can also find guidance from gulls, as they can indicate whether changes like looming rains and storms. 

Gulls and Subtle Signals

Gulls can sense subtle fluctuations in not only water and air pressure, as well as even the slightest changes in light. Gulls will change their behavior if they pick up on subtle changes in the weather. Aside from highly acute senses, the gull can also pick up on what is known as “infrasounds.”

These are sounds, or better described as pulses, that humans are not able to hear. These infrasounds are what lets the gulls know when a storm, or even an earthquake, is on the horizon. The gulls can often hear these pulses a number of days before the natural disaster makes landfall.

Author Note: gulls can fly inland, out of harm’s way, as much as several days before the earthquake arrives. Some reports indicate that the gulls will travel miles inland to escape from harm’s way. 

Distribution and Habitat

Where are gulls found? Gulls can be found throughout the world. Some species, however, like the Swallow-tailed Gull, are endemic to specific areas. The Galapagos Islands is the only area where this gull can be found.

The gull can be found on nearly every continent, including the Arctic and Antarctic. However, gulls tend to avoid tropical islands, but islands such as the Galapagos and New Caledonia do have coastal colonies of several gull species. 

Where Do Gulls Go at Night?

When gulls are living in coastal areas, they will typically spend their nights sleeping on the beach. However, it is not uncommon for gulls to sleep on the water as well, but only if the sea is calm. 

Are Gulls Intelligent?

Portrait of a screaming seagull

Birds, in general, are intelligent animals. Gulls are known to be so intelligent that they can even pass on behaviors they have learned. For example, gulls will imitate rainfall as they stamp their feet on the ground.

This stamping of their feet is a trick gulls have learned to encourage tasty earthworms to come up through the ground to the surface. Before gulls became accustomed to city living, they were only found near coastal areas.

However, their intelligence helped them adapt to urban areas, as they recognized the cities’ safety. In their natural habitats, they demonstrate their intelligence in the way they feed. Breaking shells with rocks and stamping the ground to imitate rainfall are just two ways these birds exhibit their intelligence. 


We hope you enjoyed this article on why are there gulls inland as well as common questions about gulls.

Fly high friends!


Where do gulls live?

Gulls are a group of birds that belong to the family Laridae. They are commonly associated with coastal and marine environments such as beaches, coastlines, estuaries, and around islands. They are also found in urban areas such as landfills, parks, and other areas where they can find food. Some species of gulls are migratory, and they may travel long distances between their breeding and non-breeding habitats. They are found all over the world, with different species found in different regions, including the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as tropical and subtropical regions.

Are gulls a health hazard?

Well, where there are large groups of gulls, there will be large amounts of poop and that is not good to be around. It can be poisonous if the dust from dry gull poop is inhaled. Best avoided.

Why do seagulls scream with their head pointed at the ground?

Simply to ward away a threat. They make as much noise as possible to try to scare another gull, animal or human away from them

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