How Nature Works: Gull Territoriality

How Nature Works: Gull Territoriality

Greater black-backed and herring gulls breed
on Appledore Island of the New England coast. Here the gulls court, mate, nest, and fledge
young, all in three short months. But these two species are both predators. Eating anything they can catch, kill, and
tear apart, including other gulls. How can thousands of birds each a potential
predator on the eggs and chicks of their neighbors coexist on a 95 acre island? The answer, these birds have evolved a complex
system of social signals that keeps violence to a minimum. The gulls use these signals to carve out and
hold small territories spaced just 4 to 5 meters apart across the rocky island. Territoriality begins when males arrive in
spring followed closely by their mate returning to the same patch of rock they held in past
years. These experienced pairs strut about. Inspecting the site for appropriate nesting
spots and reenforcing territorial boundaries. Boundaries must be constantly defended. An interloper or neighbor approaching another’s
territory is met with a series of signals or displays intended to drive him away. This is a long call. In a territorial context, a long call is a
threat directed to trespassers. The mew, is also used in territorial disputes often calling in support from a mate. The Kek Kek is used when the colony is disturbed
or in boundary disputes. The Yeow, serves these same two functions. This visual display is an Upright Posture. The Upright Posture is rigid, neck stretched
up and forward, head pointed slightly down. Wings are cocked forward and slightly off
the sides, poised to attack. Still more aggressive is the charged display. A ritualized attack that is amplified by out
stretched wings, making the charging gull appear larger. Fights happen, in spit of the signaling system. But fights are risky as severe injury to a
parent will doom their eggs and chicks. Over evolutionary time, selective pressure
on individuals has favored communication over conflict resulting in a signaling system that
reduces violence in the breeding colony.

Comments (100)

  1. I love this video so much! Gulls are funny and fascinating and never get enough credit.

  2. Wonderful. I worked for a breeding season on Alcatraz Island years back, large colony of Western Gulls, and a couple California Gulls. Still miss the greetings I used to get each morning.

  3. Planning a day at Jersey shore. Will enjoy looking at Gulls' communications. We often use "bird brain" as a perjorative term. How awesome that little brain is! How much more awesome is God who has blessed us so abundantly with his vast variety of creatures to enjoy!!!

  4. The U.S. government could learn a lot from these gulls: "Communication over conflict." Think about it.

    Apart from that, a very instructive little video, this. Thanks.

  5. My cats say much of those birdies' behaviour in unacceptable!

  6. Holy shit these seagulls are hardcore

  7. Indoor cats hopefully!

  8. Yes my cats are indoors always. As I'm fond of saying, the coyotes have to eat too, and we have plenty roaming our neighbourhood.

  9. If the gulls return to the same portion of the rock as in previous years, where can the offspring go? Must they fight to establish their territory?

  10. Good question. A habitat has a max number of individuals it can hold – its carrying capacity. If the carrying capacity has been reached, the population remains fairly constant. That implies high mortality rate of the young, unless they find new habitat elsewhere, or yes, fight off the weaker older generation.

  11. It is a pity they can't just put up a fence around the boundary of their property!

  12. Excellent video of gull behaviour and the explanation of the various calls and sounds made. We live in Jeffrey's Bay in South Africa and I love photographing the gulls on our shoreline but have often wondered what the various calls and walking behaviour is all about and this video has given me the information, thank you so much to all involved in the making of it.

  13. wonder ful to get code of sounds i hav listened to many summers close seagulls nesting aggressive body languagr i have similiar in eagles e.g thank you for this vid.

  14. très belle vidéo mais dommage que ce soit en anglais !  

  15. Gullllllllllll!!!!?!

  16. I often hear the Mew sound before they attack me, and I'm very close to them. Not all seagulls do that, in fact, only a few seagulls do that. And when they attack after the Mew sound, they will often wait until I've passed them, in an attempt to do a poop-bombing on the backside of my back.

    They use the Long Call sound is when they are sitting several meters above and away from me before they attempt to attack me.

    So, thanks for sharing this upload with the world. It gave me some tools to understand when they are threatened by my presence.

    Also, knowing that they use the side of their head to look at things is also very helpful.

    But, I do miss a guide on how to live with very aggressive seagulls as my closest nabour.

  17. Evil birds. I have 8 chicks on my roof and its illegal to kill or move. One of the worst laws ever made no sleep for me.

  18. proof to me that they eat other gulls ..i dont believe that you are anti gull probly have problem wif dem.

  19. Importante profundzar agresión intraespecífica animal, no sólo para expertos.

  20. I guess you learn something new every day…..

  21. We have a large amount of Seagulls on a flat roofed house opposite ours. At the moment, there are a handful of Seagulls with very dark wings continuously swooping at the existing colony of birds. The noise is horrendous! All night this goes on for. I wish that someone can do something about this… Legally of course!

  22. Where I live they live in roofs all over the city and they seem to talk with each other like a network. One goes with the long Call, and some other, 2-3 miles away squeaks back, as a msg being passed through to a distant place. I sometimes scare one off, and it makes a different noise – as if to inform the others about it. It's hard to sleep with them around.

  23. LOL … I knew some of their sound …

  24. beautiful creatures

  25. They like Victoria BC and breed on our roofs in the city.We are on an island and I assume they choose this urban area due to lack of predators as they are protected species under our laws despite the fact they create a mess with shit everywhere.
    Most people hate them but I don't mind them so long as they don't shit on me.
    I have learned to spot when an eagle is near as they will ALL go in the air flying in circles, squaking, alarming their friends. When I see this I look and inevitably there will be an eagle flying by.(Usually being chased by crows)

  26. humans don't know anything about animal language. They just get payed to make crap up or they convince themselves that their research is valid.

  27. Nice to watch…!!!

  28. My grandmother has had alot of birds and let me tell you; they can be mean. We had a cockatoo that would activly try to get into a myers parrot cage just so she could attack it. The myers parrot itself killed a smaller bird once.

  29. 3:32 . . . MY eyes were hurting watching this.

  30. My country is full with them and they have become really anoying you simply can't bring food to the beach or else they will steal it,they shit on my car all the time,they start screaming at 4:00 am,they knock on my windows to bring them bread since i fed them a month ago and since then they don't leave me alone

  31. So much shit on that island


  33. Kek Kek: Based gulls.

  34. So i was in a petco parking lot on day and i seen hell of alot of sea gulls iwas eating doritos at the moment and so i decided to throw one dorito at the gulls and then forget about the came crashing towarda me so i just gave themmall my doritos it was attack of the sea gulls

  35. 2:40 that shits a Velociraptor call, gtfo of there quick

  36. 1:57
    1 Long Call
    2 Mew
    3 Kek Kek
    4 Yeow

  37. At 3:40 the left gull says: kek kek and the right gull says: What? 😀

  38. Crazy. Crazy why they attack each other. Should be another way. 😉 God's creation is sometimes too cruel.

  39. That Island is more gettho than those getthoes in my city, so much fight, killing, kidnapping/child attack, etc.

  40. I think a raven is bigger than a great black backed gull


  42. these are annoying flying rat's that I usually shoot when I see them.

  43. "My territory?" "No, mine!" "No, mine!" "Mine!" "Mine!" "Mine!" etc.

  44. Sea Gulls are one of my favorite birds! I never get tired of hearing their calls! Living next to the Atlantic Ocean we have a few species of Gulls! My all time favorite being the Laughing Gulls! If I don’t hear them I get worried! They make me feel at peace!

  45. 2:00 – the long call (threat directed at trespassers)
    2:15 – the mew (call in your mate to help threat trespassers)
    2:25 – the kek kek & the yeow (the colony is disturbed and boundary disputes)

  46. The meta truly has evolved

  47. I think the different calls mean alot more than just territorial disputes

  48. Most people are territorial as well. Just hoped we all would have become aware
    of this primative behavior by now…seems theres always something to prove…nobody gives a shit bud 😉 Where all going to die one day…doesnt matter…unless of course people can put you in a frame and hang you on a wall to admire for their sole enjoyment…don't act like the back half of a donkey.Tadaaa! Heard an interesting scenario…people in a hurry to find a parking space,…but always slow to leave…:)

  49. You're all wrong.

  50. Here I am, at 6 AM, learning how to speak seagull…

  51. that was interesting. maybe i need to record the Long Call and play it back when one is eyeing up my Cornish Pasty or ice cream…lol. I heard a year ago that a woman in Cornwall was attacked by a seagull when she was eating. they tend to try snatching your food away from you and some get aggressive trying to do so

  52. I love this animal because It's the symbol of my city and my city club Jableh – Syria

  53. mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine
    mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine
    mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine

  54. invade their turf, kill the parents, eat the babies….. Fucking seagulls…

  55. Over the ocean blue, the lonely seagull flew:

  56. So….a yeow, kek kek, long call and short call all basically mean…….GO AWAY!!!! Got it.

  57. They should not be protected they kill pets and are very aggressive and dangerous to even humans.

  58. thanks, interesting for Gull ethology ciao

  59. I live on the coast . They don't bother me with there noise . There hardy animals . They have to be to survive . They were all Spartans in another life

  60. I have a question is it ok for seagulls to eat yogurt?

  61. In Blackpool town centre (UK) there are many Long Calls.. probably because there are food shops where after people walk out with pastries the bloody things attack..

  62. I live in Dublin Ireland and the whole city is a huge herring and black back seagull colony! I love and respect seagull a lot. they are amazing animals! clever and and fast learners — excellent survivors

  63. I had an african Grey , he died …………..The Cage is going through the move LOL ……….I can't let go of the Dream xo

  64. It's called a cornnut asshole ………It's funny , stale Bread ….Okay I'll eat just this once LOL

  65. Thank you so much for this. This is so educational. Even in the americas!!

  66. Here’s a brutal example of gull aggression

  67. Blood of the dead????

  68. at my school there is one seagull that has black wings and is so much larger than the other ones also there is a kid who feeds them everyday that’s why they never go away

  69. I have a coloured female support worker with long dark hair and I think it would be great if she
    Had sea gulls flying around her and suddenly the sea gulls started showering her in smelly
    Sea gull poo making her stink and feel gross and she is completely coated in smelly Sea gull poo making her stink and feel gross.

  70. So basically they're cannibals and everything they do and say is about fighting each other. Neat.

  71. Damn I wanna be a seagull now

  72. I always watch them from my window. Once I saw one stood on top of the other weird haha

  73. I like seagulls their a perfect balance between annoying, cute, derpy its great. also since their mostly around oceans and McDonald's they remind me of my 2 favorite places 😀 I may or may not have made a videogame clan called the seagulls lol

  74. 0:08 say that 5 times fast

  75. Hearing them reminds me of Jones beach!


  77. I have not seen a single seagal yet because they are not present here in India…..alas 😞 but i love to watch them in youtube….Thanks

  78. Birds on the Rock (Alcatraz) The Western Gull [Larus occidentalis]
    The entire Island has ample roosting spots for a variety of seabirds, and their populations are well protected from boats and people. Gulls are champion flyers on SF Bay

  79. The only word a seagull can say is:


  80. that's such a brutal existence ;_;

  81. So what do they say when they're happy?

  82. I once communicated with a gull by replicating their sounds.

  83. Seagull cannibalism… 😑😑😑

  84. Man, gulls are crazy

  85. 0:40 "J'paie Navarro, pas ta pute"

  86. Sea gulls the raptors if brids lol welcome to brid Park

  87. So basically every noise a gull makes and pretty much everything it does is a threat and a warning? Not much comfort when they are staking out the rooftops on my street and see every passing human as a threat.

  88. I saw a bunch of these guys just today while at Centre Island in Canada. They kept screaming at each other, making it clear that every single one of them seemed to see the park as their territory.

  89. Its 4:19 AM, i have no idea why i am here

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