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Seagull sightings are fairly common near Lanier

POSTED: January 3, 2014 10:46 p.m.

I’ve seen a lot of seagulls lately in the Oakwood area around shopping centers. Is that normal?

Some types of gulls are fairly common on inland waters like Lake Lanier, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

They feed on shad on the surface of the water, which is a clue for striped bass anglers that stripers are in the area, feeding on the shad from below, DNR spokesman Rick Lavender said.

The most common gull to see here, though, is the ring-billed gull, which eats a lot of insects and only occasionally eats fish, according to Todd Schneider, wildlife biologist with the nongame conservation section of the DNR.

“They’re pretty adaptable,” he said.

Schneider said the population of this species of gull dwindled greatly in the 1800s and early 1900s when the bird’s feathers were used for hats. They have bounced back, though, and are common in the northern Midwest, where they breed.

They have been spreading to other areas in recent decades, he said. Lake Lanier is likely a big draw, providing water and a food source, and since it has only existed for about 60 years, the birds are still adjusting to that. Shopping centers also provide food sources.

The birds do not breed in Georgia, but some young gulls who aren’t breeding yet may stay here all year. Schneider said it takes a couple of years for the gulls to mature.

Most will leave by the summer, though, heading for the Great Lakes area. Some young gulls may go to the Georgia coast.

Other gulls seen on the Georgia coast include laughing gulls and herring gulls, but Schneider said they typically stay on the coast.

Schneider advised people not to feed them.

“It’s not good for them. They’ll eat popcorn, things like that, french fries and whatever scraps they can possibly get,” he said. “But it’s best if people don’t feed them. They get habituated to people and then become more of a nuisance, and they can survive on their own.”

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