What do seagulls eat?  Most people will answer this question with the word “garbage” since that is what they seem to be eating fairly often.  These birds get a really bad reputation since they are usually hovering around, beaches and parks waiting to be fed or for the chance to eat food that has been left behind.  Garbage and left overs are not their first choice of food though.  To easier answer the question, it is helpful to look at individual species of seagulls.

Black Legged Kittiwake

The hind toe located on this species gives this bird the nickname “three-toed” since they appear to have three toes instead of four toes.  These seagulls eat plankton, marine invertebrates and fish.  They feed while in flock formation and catch their prey at the surface of the water.  They are unique since they are also capable of diving below the surface which make them rare.  None of the other species of seagulls are capable of obtaining their prey under water.

Bonaparte's Gull

These seagulls are one of the few seagulls that nest during their mating season in trees instead of on the ground.  These birds are found from Alaska to the Great Lakes and they feed primarily on insects, crustaceans, snails, fish and marine worms.

California Gull

These birds nest in a very shallow depression located in the ground that is lined with feathers and vegetation.  They are found on the Pacific coastline and enjoy eating fish, insects and eggs.  These are very famous birds that come to mind when the, “What do seagulls eat?” question is asked since they often scavenge docks and dumps.  These seagulls are also often seen following a farmer as he plows his field and they eat any stirred up insect activity.  They will also often find a swarm of flies on a beach, start at one end and literally run through the flies with its bill open and catch as many flies as it can.

Common Black Headed Gull

These birds are fairly new to North America and were first spotted in Canada in the beginning of the 1900s.  They reach maturity at two years old and prefer to feed on small fish, insects, earthworms and small berries.  They will often follow behind fishing boats and plunge for small fish.  These birds are also known for following fields being plowed and eat earthworms and invertebrates.

Franklin's Gull

These unique seagulls make their floating nests out of cattails and grass in shallow water.  They participate in two molts per year instead of one and they eat spiders, insects, small berries and small fish.  In addition to other seagull species, they will follow farmers plowing the fields as well.

Gaucous Gull

This seagull is called the “four year gull,” because it takes four years to mature to an adult.  They live in Northern Canada and Alaska and migrate to upper areas of the United States for the winter.  These are predatory gulls and prey on plovers, auks, ptarmigans, birds, small ducks and fish.  They are also scavengers and feed on dead animals, garbage and will invade bird colonies and steal their eggs.

Glaucous-Winged Gull

These are another “four year gull,” taking four years to become an adult.  They are found at the Pacific Northwest coastline and are omnivores, eating almost anything including marine creatures, fish, eggs, small birds, invertebrates, small mammals and refuse from trash cans, parking lots and dumps.

Seagulls prefer to feed on marine life, insects and natural environmental food sources but in desperation they will feed on garbage.  Sometimes seagulls will grow accustomed to feeding on garbage when it is in abundance and get lazy and forget how to hunt for themselves.  Next time you are at a park or a beach it you should know that you are doing the seagulls no favor by feeding them, especially if you feed them bread.  If you must feed seagulls, give them leafy greens or something that they can easily digest.