What Do Seagulls Eat? List of Foods They Love to Eat

Seagull eating dead bird on the fontaine

Have you ever watched seagulls and wondered what they eat? These adaptable birds are known for their diverse diet, which makes them fascinating creatures to observe.

Seagulls are all about eating whatever they can find. Their diet ranges from fish, insects, and crustaceans to small reptiles, mammals, and birds. They also scavenge on carrion and human leftovers. Whether they’re by the sea or in the city, seagulls adapt their diet to their surroundings.

In this article, we’ll explore the different foods that seagulls love to eat. We’ll look at everything from their natural food to the unexpected things they sometimes snack on. With that, let’s get started!

List of Foods Eaten by Seagulls

Seagull eating fish on the beach

Seagulls are omnivores that eat almost anything they come across. These opportunistic feeders have a broad diet, which reflects their ability to exploit multiple food sources.

Here’s a look at the wide variety of foods that make up a seagull’s menu:

  • Krill
  • Rats
  • Nuts
  • Mice
  • Flies
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Frogs
  • Seeds
  • Bread
  • Fruits
  • Clams
  • Crabs
  • Squid
  • Whale
  • Worms
  • Larvae
  • Carrion
  • Shrimp
  • Rabbits
  • Beetles
  • Oysters
  • Lizards
  • Scallops
  • Crawfish
  • Lobsters
  • Potatoes
  • Octopus
  • Squirrels
  • Planktons
  • Sand dollars
  • Smaller birds
  • Human food scraps

As you can see, seagulls are not picky eaters at all. They munch on everything from fish in the ocean to snacks people drop at the beach. This versatility in feeding habits helps them thrive in all sorts of places.

Fun Fact: Since seagulls can’t crack open shells with their beaks, they do something pretty smart. They grab shellfish like clams or mussels, fly way up high, and then drop them onto rocks or hard ground.

The shell breaks open from the fall, and voilà – the seagull gets its snack!

What Do Seagulls Eat in the Ocean?

Seagull catching fish from the sea

When they’re out at sea, seagulls have a diverse and interesting diet. Here’s a closer look at what they enjoy eating:

  • Krill: Krill are a significant part of the diet for many sea animals, and seagulls eat them as well, especially in certain regions where they’re abundant.
  • Carrion: Seagulls are opportunistic and will eat dead sea animals they find floating in the water or washed up on the beach.
  • Mollusks: Many seagulls prey on mollusks like oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops.
  • Plankton: While not a staple in their diet, seagulls may eat plankton, especially when other food sources are unavailable.
  • Small Fish: Seagulls love eating small fish like anchovies, sardines, mackerel, herring, and smelt. These fish swim in large groups, which makes it easier for seagulls to scoop them up.
  • Sand Dollars: Sand dollars, those flat sea urchins you sometimes find on the beach, are also on the seagull’s menu. In fact, seagulls are one of the biggest predators of sand dollars.
  • Crustaceans: Crustaceans like crabs, shrimp, and lobsters are all part of the seagull’s diet. They’re a bit of a treat for seagulls, especially crabs, which they can find plenty of near beaches.
  • Squid and Octopus: Every now and then, seagulls will eat a small squid or a baby octopus, which they can snatch from near the water’s surface.

As shown by their varied diet, seagulls are really good at making the most of what the ocean has to offer. This helps them stay strong and survive in coastal areas.

Fun Fact: Seagulls sometimes eat parts of living whales! Researchers have observed seagulls attacking and eating the blubber from the backs of young southern right whale calves.

This usually happens when the whales come up to the surface to breathe. Seagulls have learned to land on the whales’ backs and peck at them, creating wounds from which they eat.

What Do Seagulls Eat on Land?

Seagull eating leftover in restaurant

Seagulls are not just beach birds; they’re also pretty common in urban and rural areas. On land, their diet is quite varied. Here’s what they typically eat:

  • Eggs: Interestingly, seagulls often eat eggs, and not just any eggs; they’re known to eat the eggs of their neighbors or other seagulls, as well as those of smaller birds like sparrows and robins.
  • Nuts: Although not a primary food source, seagulls will eat nuts when available. They’re particularly fond of peanuts and almonds, which they might find in parks or near cafes.
  • Carrion: As scavengers, seagulls consume carrion, which includes the remains of dead animals like squirrels, rabbits, and roadkill.
  • Rodents: Seagulls sometimes catch and eat small rodents like mice, rats, and squirrels, especially in rural or suburban areas.
  • Fruits and Seeds: Seagulls enjoy a variety of fruits and seeds. They often eat berries, apples, bananas, sunflower seeds, and grains found in gardens or agricultural fields.
  • Reptiles and Amphibians: In certain regions, seagulls will consume small reptiles and amphibians, such as frogs, lizards, and even small snakes.
  • Processed Human Foods: Seagulls have a taste for processed human foods, especially snacks like chips, crackers, breads, and pastries, which they often find in picnic areas or when scavenging in trash bins.
  • Insects and Invertebrates: Seagulls feast on a range of insects and invertebrates. This includes earthworms, beetles, grasshoppers, and caterpillars found in gardens, parks, and fields.

Seagulls’ diversified diet on land shows their ability to adapt and thrive in various habitats. From natural food sources to human leftovers, these birds make the most of the resources available to them in order to survive.

How Do Seagulls Find Their Food?

When it comes to finding their food, seagulls are quite savvy. They rely heavily on their sharp eyesight, which is perfect for spotting potential meals from high up in the sky.

Their sense of smell, though not their strongest sense, also helps them locate food on land, especially near beaches or garbage bins.

Another interesting thing about seagulls is their memory and ability to learn. They remember places where they’ve successfully found food before.

They’re also quick to notice where other seagulls are feeding and will often join in, hoping to grab a share. Check out this video of seagulls eating a pizza and see how quickly they swoop in to grab a piece:

Seagulls Eat a Whole Pizza at The Beach

Interestingly, a study found that seagulls are more likely to approach food they’ve seen humans touch, showing these clever birds also use human behavior as a cue for finding food.

Further, seagulls are not just passive scavengers; they’re active hunters as well. In their natural habitat, they can skillfully catch fish, insects, and sometimes even small animals.

What Do Seagulls Eat in the Winter?

Seagulls on railing of bridge in winter
Editorial credit: rudnitskaya_anna / Shutterstock.com

In the winter, seagulls don’t have to change their diet too much because they usually fly off to warmer places where food is easier to find.

In these milder climates, they continue to scavenge for organic waste, often found in urban environments.

Fish remains a big part of what seagulls eat in the winter, especially since they move to places where the water isn’t frozen and there are plenty of fish.

Seagulls also eat carrion, which can be more common during the winter. Near the coast, they munch on crabs and mollusks, just like they do the rest of the year.

And even though there aren’t as many bugs around in the winter, they’ll still snack on any insects they come across.

What Do Baby Seagulls Eat?

Baby seagulls start their lives eating food that’s been regurgitated by their parents. This might sound a bit gross, but it’s a common practice in many bird species.

The parents eat food, partially digest it, and then bring it back up to feed their chicks. This process makes the food easier for the chicks to eat and digest.

What’s in this special baby bird meal? Mostly, it’s small fish and insects. Sometimes, the mix includes bits of human food that the parent seagulls find. Seagulls aren’t picky, so their babies get a bit of everything.

At around 5 to 6 weeks old, as the baby seagulls grow and start to explore their surroundings, they gradually transition to more solid foods and start to feed independently.

What Can Seagulls Not Eat?

A seagull eats French fries on the granite

Seagulls are known for their ability to eat a wide variety of foods, but like all animals, there are certain things they should not eat. Here’s a list of items that seagulls should avoid:

  • Avocados: Avocados are toxic to many birds, including seagulls. Persin, a substance found in avocados, can cause heart damage and other serious health problems in birds.
  • Dairy Products: Seagulls can’t handle dairy products like milk or cheese. Their bodies just aren’t made to digest dairy, so it can upset their stomachs.
  • Onions and Garlic: Onions and garlic can cause anemia and other digestive issues in seagulls. Even small amounts can be toxic, so they should be avoided.
  • Chocolate and Caffeine: Just like with dogs, chocolate and caffeine are bad news for seagulls. They can cause heart problems, hyperactivity, and even seizures in birds.
  • Foods with Xylitol: Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in many sugar-free products and is really dangerous for seagulls. It can cause rapid insulin release, leading to hypoglycemia and liver failure.
  • Salty and Fatty Snacks: Common snacks like chips, crackers, and fries may be tempting to feed to seagulls, but they’re unhealthy for them. These foods lack nutritional value and can lead to health issues if consumed in large amounts.

While seagulls are often seen scavenging for food in urban areas, it’s important to remember that not all human foods are safe for them.

Seagulls are best suited to a diet that mimics what they would naturally find in the wild.

Is Feeding Seagulls Illegal?

Whether or not it’s illegal to feed seagulls depends on where you are. In some places, local laws make it illegal to feed them, especially in areas where seagulls can become a nuisance or a health hazard.

I remember a friend in Canada telling me about her experience regarding feeding seagulls. She used to feed them at her home, thinking it was harmless.

However, she was surprised when she received an official warning letter. The letter stated that it was against the law to feed seagulls, even on private property, and warned of serious consequences if she continued.

Even in places where it’s not strictly illegal to feed seagulls, it’s often advised against. This is because it can turn them into pests and encourage seagulls to rely on human food, which is less healthy than their natural diet.

So, while feeding seagulls might not always be against the law, it’s generally a good idea to avoid doing it. It’s better for the seagulls, and it helps prevent problems in the community.

Frequently Asked Questions

Two seagulls finding food on the beach

Do Seagulls Eat Squirrels?

Seagulls can indeed eat squirrels, but it’s not something they do all the time. Seagulls usually go for fish and bugs. But when they can’t find their usual food, they might grab a small rodent, like a squirrel.

If you’re curious to see this for yourself, here’s a video of a seagull eating a squirrel whole:

Moment a seagull swallows squirrel whole

Do Seagulls Eat Bread?

Seagulls will eat bread if it’s available, but it’s not the best choice for their diet. Bread lacks the essential nutrients that seagulls need and can lead to health problems if they eat too much of it.

Do Seagulls Eat Fruit?

Yes, seagulls do eat fruit. They are opportunistic feeders and will consume fruits like apples, bananas, and berries when available. Eating fruits provides them with additional nutrients and variety in their diet.

Do Seagulls Eat Crabs?

Seagulls commonly feast on crabs, especially when they’re near coastal areas.

These birds use their sharp beaks and keen eyes to find crabs hidden in the sand or shallow waters. They can even eat and swallow crabs that are up to five inches in size.

So, what are your thoughts on what seagulls eat? If you have any questions or want to share your own observations about seagull feeding habits, feel free to share them in the comment section below.

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