Reserved Parking

Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight how to get from shore to food and back again.

~Richard Bach

Ring-billed Gull calling

Ring-billed Gull calling

Ring-billed Gulls are very adaptable creatures. They are a common inhabitant of our inland reservoirs in winter where they often fly out each day to forage in landfills or other food rich habitats. They are also a frequent sight in large parking lots of big box stores or shopping malls. This often raises the question by shoppers – What are all these “sea gulls” doing here?

The usual theory is that these birds prefer to roost in open habitats where they can easily see the approach of potential predators. Before large parking lots were near landfill feeding buffets, Ring-billed Gulls probably roosted primarily on large open bodies of water or adjacent sand bars. Our modern-day parking lots offer that plus the opportunity to forage on the all-too-often-left-behind scraps of fast food or other human food garbage.  While I am used to seeing gulls in parking lots, I was surprised on Sunday to see a group of large white birds claiming a remnant pile of snow in a parking lot as their domain. This was just north of Winston-Salem and there were scattered areas of snow where crews had cleared the parking lots and pushed it into huge piles that were still clinging to life in our recent cold weather.

gulls in parking lot on snow

Ring-billed Gulls claiming a parking lot snow pile as their domain

So, why claim the snow? Perhaps it is an area where the birds are assured of no cars driving through. Or maybe there is something cool about being “Gull of the Hill”. It looked like the highest density of gulls that were not actually standing on the snow pile was found down-slope from the pile where the melt water was flowing…so, are they using this as a water source? Who knows, but it made me drive through and grab a quick picture, and I saw a lot of other folks looking as if to say – What are all these “sea gulls” doing here?

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