Who knew that seagulls are native birds. Not I. And apparently they are in decline. Considered by most of us beachgoers are annoying scavengers, they play an important role in the food chain. That said, do they have to behave so aggressively?
Bossy Bird, Sally Red-beak.
She’s at it again, dive bombing, her favourite sport. Bossy bird Sally Red-Beak swirls from up high, dips her wing and swoops into a dive directly above her prey. At the sound of her menacing squawk, the two-legged creatures glance up, alarm and fear etching their faces. Ducking, one of the Two-Leg’s waves her hat wildly as Sally skims above their heads. Unrepentant, flying in a large arc, she prepares for a second dive. In she comes, lower, lower she skims above them. With her out-stretched claws, she snatches the hat and dumps it in the surf. With a final loud Aarck she farewells the Two-Legs, her shrieking victims huddle together and scramble for the bush line.
Sally glides sedately to the water’s edge. With her head held high and her breast pumped out, she struts triumphantly amongst us other red-beaks gathered in a circle. None of us acknowledges her.
“Did you see that? Did you see me give those Two-Legs a right fright they’ll not forget in a hurry? Ah, the thrill to see them scurry away. They’ll learn who owns this beach,” she trumpeted.
Our backs turned, dabbing the sand with our beaks, we continue to ignore her.
“Oh, come on. You’ve got to agree, that second dive was mighty impressive. Did you see their faces?”
“But why? Why do you do it?” Bertie stutters, breaking our code of silence. He turns to face Sally. Reluctantly, so do the rest of us.
“Why? The fact that you even ask that question Bertie, shows you’ve lost it, old man. You’ve lost the thrill of the chase. Same as the rest of you.” She eye-balls us with her beady eyes. “You’ve gone soft, the lot of you. Gone all liberal, all that live-in-harmony rubbish. This is our beach, not theirs and we’ve got to fight for it. Besides, they’ve got their own places.” She flapped her wings impatiently.
“But the Two-Legs do have their uses,” Cynthia chipped in.
“Uses? Please enlighten me, oh learned one.” Sally sneers out of the corner of her beak, puffing her chest some more.
“The morsels of nourishment they drop as they meander along.”
“Hah, morsels, you’ve got that right. Mere morsels. What does that make us? Scavengers, thankful for tit-bits left behind by the mighty Two-Legs?”
“Well, yes actually. We are scavengers, that is in our nature, like our parents before us and their parents before them, we are scavengers. It’s in our DNA. There’s no shame in that.”
Sally’s feathers ruffled. “No, I refuse to accept that label.”
“The best pickings to be had,” Granddad Harold squawked dreamily, “is when they gather in groups on the grass verges and they bring out baskets loaded with offerings.”
“Or better still, they fire-up that contraption and cook them elongated meaty things and encase them in a moist, white cover doused in that thick red liquid and the littler two-legs drop chunks as they wander around,” Casey interrupted.
I was fair dribbling at the beak listening to the pair of them, envisioning such delights. If Sally persists in her dive bombing antic’s, she’ll spoil it for us all and eliminate our source of a-la-carte dining.
There comes at a time when one must stand up to bully’s like Sally Red-Beak. I gaze sternly at Sally, holding my gaze for all of five seconds before relenting under her hypnotic return-glare and look down at my feet. I open my beak then immediately close it without emitting a sound.
“You wish to comment, Timid Timothy? Do share your views with us.” Sally theatrically flings a wing-wide in my direction. The other red beaks gather around.
Solemnly, I cross my wings across my chest and nod my head a few times allowing the words to form in my head. “I suggest we not use the word scavenge. The word scavenge has connotation’s of us seagulls being garbage disposers, of salvaging anything and everything one can find in order to survive. It is a demeaning and out-dated term. We, my friends, are environmental activists.” I stride around the circle, nodding at each fellow red-beak. “All of us, each and every one of us is an environmental activist, cleaning up after the Two-Legs, ensuring this pristine beach of ours – and it is ours as Sally quite rightly stated – is preserved for our children and our children’s children.’
Some fellow red-beaks nod and squawk in agreement. Sally stays mute.
“The sea, once our main source of nourishment is depleted and can no longer sustain our needs. We need to move with the changing tides, embrace our important role in the environmental spectrum whilst providing for our loved ones.”
My companions flap their wings, nod their heads and Aarck-aarck in a show of support.
Clyde joins the conversation. “You make a fine point, Timothy, and if I may, I’d like to expand on your sentiments.”
“Ah, here we go, another pseudo-intellectual with pretty words.” Sally bustles into the centre of the circle.
Undaunted, Clyde continues. “For too long our reputation has been tarnished by this scavenger label and anti-social antics such as dive-bombing the Two-Legs reinforces this image. However, if we tamed our aggressive behaviour,” Clyde looks pointedly at Sally, “and simply waddled alongside the Two-Legs, they’re likely to view us as curious and cute birds. It would be advantageous to both our reputations and our pickings to portray a more amicable attitude.”
“Hear, hear!” My companions hold their heads high, shrieking their applause.
Not Sally. “Huh! What a load of codswallop! Environmental activists, amicable, cute and curious birds? That’s not us! We ain’t starring in some sickly-sweet Disney movie, are we?” Her loud protestations fall on deaf ears.
As a large group of Two-Legs approach, our circle disbands and we waddle towards the group. We nod and waggle our heads as we fall in beside them. We croon harmonious melodies from deep within our throats. The Two-Legs notice us and chuckle. Then one of them pauses, crouches and holds out a hand to pet little Sara. Another reaches into his back-pack and proceeds to drop generous chunks of tasty offerings upon the sand. With decorum, us red-beaks step towards these offerings, and forgoing our usual style of snatch, grab and gobble, we elegantly consume this welcome nourishment, all the while nodding in unison.