Why Do Seagulls Hang Out in Parking Lots?

iStock / Dylan Zheng
iStock / Dylan Zheng

I live in Philadelphia, which is a quick enough drive to the Jersey Shore when traffic is good, but still pretty far from the ocean. Yet, the parking lot of my local grocery store is almost always full of seagulls. What gives?

Well, ornithologists will point out, “seagulls” are more accurately called gulls and while they do like to be near water, they don’t strictly live by the sea. The Ring-billed gull prefers the interior of the country, and some never even get near the ocean. The grey gull is usually found on the western coast of South America, but heads away from the shore and into Chile’s Atacama Desert to breed. Even the Herring gull, which the Cornell University ornithology lab calls the quintessential “seagull,” can be found pretty far inland during both the summer breeding season and the winter. 

Pennsylvania is attractive to gulls, according to the state’s game commission, because it sits between two major gull population centers: the Atlantic Coast and the Great Lakes. It’s a good spot to make a temporary home (or even a permanent one—both Ring-billed and Herring gulls are year-round residents in some areas), and there’s plenty to eat.

“Gulls come to Pennsylvania because it’s convenient,” writes Joe Kosack, a Wildlife Conservation Education Specialist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, “and because it has rivers that are loaded with small aquatic critters they eat readily, hundreds of restaurants that serve fast food indirectly to gulls, and plenty of parking lots to loaf in.”

The gulls are drawn to parking lots mainly for two reasons. The first is food. Gulls are opportunistic feeders and will eat most things that are available to them, rather than specializing in one kind of prey or food. They’ll feed on fish, insects, small rodents, fruits and a lot of things discarded by humans. Parking lots offer plenty of trash and scraps, especially if there’s a supermarket or restaurant there, by way of dumpsters, garbage cans, and people who can’t be bothered to use either of those. Plus, manicured grass and other landscaped patches around the pavement can be good places to look for bugs. 

The second thing that parking lots have going for them is that they’re spacious, open and flat. This allows the gulls to congregate en masse near food sources and gives them clear views in all directions so they can keep an eye out for danger. 

Australian Island Wants Visitors to Stop Taking Wombat Selfies

iStock.com/LukeWaitPhotography
iStock.com/LukeWaitPhotography

Spending a day observing Australian wildlife from afar isn't enough for some tourists. On Maria Island, just off the east coast of Tasmania, many visitors can't resist snapping pictures with the local wombats—and the problem has gotten so out of hand that island officials are asking people to pledge to leave the cute marsupials out of their selfies.

As CNN Travel reports, the Maria Island Pledge has been posted on signs welcoming visitors to the national park. It implores them to vow to the island to "respect and protect the furred and feathered residents." It even makes specific mention of the wombat selfie trend, with one passage reading:

"Wombats, when you trundle past me I pledge I will not chase you with my selfie stick, or get too close to your babies. I will not surround you, or try and pick you up. I will make sure I don’t leave rubbish or food from my morning tea. I pledge to let you stay wild."

The pledge isn't a binding contract guests have to sign. Rather, park officials hope that seeing these signs when they arrive will be enough to remind visitors that their presence has an impact on the resident wildlife and to be respectful of their surroundings.

The adorable, cube-pooping wombats at Maria Island are wild animals that aren't accustomed to posing for pictures, and should therefore be left alone—though in other parts of Australia, conservationists encourage tourists to take wildlife selfies. Rottnest Island off the country's west coast is home to 10,000 quokkas (another photogenic marsupial), and the quokka selfies taken there help raise awareness of their vulnerable status.

[h/t CNN Travel]

Divers Swim With What Could Be the Biggest Great White Shark Ever Filmed

iStock.com/RamonCarretero
iStock.com/RamonCarretero

New pictures and video taken by divers show what could possibly be the largest great white shark ever caught on camera, CNN Travel reports.

Deep Blue, a 50-plus-year-old great white first documented 20 years ago, was spotted off the coast of Hawaii recently in a rare close encounter. Divers were filming tiger sharks feeding on a sperm whale carcass south of Oahu when Deep Blue swam up and began scratching herself on their boat. They accompanied the shark in the water for the rest of the day, even getting close enough to touch her at times.


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"She swam away escorted by two rough-toothed dolphins who danced around her over to one of my [...] shark research vessels and proceeded to use it as a scratching post, passing up feeding for another need," Ocean Ramsey, one of the divers, wrote in an Instagram post.


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Deep Blue is roughly 20 feet long and weighs an estimated 2 tons—likely making her one of the largest great whites alive. (The record for biggest great white shark ever is often disputed, with some outlets listing an alleged 37-foot shark recorded in the 1930s as the record-holder.)

Deep Blue looks especially wide in these photos, leading some to suspect she's pregnant. Swimming so close to great whites is always dangerous, especially when they're feeding, but older, pregnant females tend to be more docile.

Though great white sharks are the largest predatory sharks in the ocean, sharks of Deep Blue's size are seldom seen, and they're filmed alive even less often, making this a remarkable occurrence.

[h/t CNN Travel]

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