We have received a lot of questions asking about what baby seagulls eat and how to age a seagull etc. We have therefore put together a Seagull Babies FAQ which hopefully can answer your questions.
If you have found a baby seagull nearby and not sure what to do, check out this article about finding a baby seagull.
Q1. What do baby seagulls eat and what should I feed them?
Baby seagulls are fed by their parents, both mother and father. The parents will regurgitate food for them or place down scraps and the type of food highly depends on what the parents have caught. Gulls eat a large variety of foods, they can catch fish and will also scavenge if necessary. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to provide food, tinned sardines, tuna etc are all acceptable choices.
Q2. Can seagull babies eat dog food or cat food?
Seagulls can and will eat wet dog or cat food. Young seagulls may appreciate this mashed up. You can also offer strips of fish such as white bait, trout or herring and even tin fish such as pilchards in tomato sauce. If a parent Is feeding the baby, there is no need to feed the baby as it should have enough food. In the case of an abandoned baby, always seek advice from your local wildlife rehabilitation centre or the RSPCA.
Q3. How often I should feed a baby seagull?
Young gulls may need 2-4 meals a day, with meals being less frequent as they grow. Always ensure that fresh drinking water is available and that any leftover food is removed as mouldy food can cause respiratory diseases in birds.
Q4. How to check the age of a baby seagull?
Aging a gull can differ between species, commonly you will find herring gulls and black headed gulls but this depends on location. In general, these rules apply for herring gulls.
Very fluffy chicks can be anything from new born to a month old, depending on size. In general, herring gulls have grey soft feathers with black spots and rely heavily on parents for food. After two weeks, you will see mottled grey and brown feathers start to develop. Unless one is unfortunate to leave the nest, you would rarely see a chick.
In one to two months, chicks will become fledglings. The process is gradual as more feathers replace the baby fluff, they can look a bit awkward at this stage. When flight feathers are more developed, fledglings may begin to fly, the first flight is usually unsuccessful. Many fledglings will end up on the ground. Often, a parent is at hand, calling with encouragement. They may withhold food to encourage their young to fly. Always look out for parents before removing a young gull as parents will still feed their young but they won’t be able to if their young was removed or if you are too close to their young!
Juvenile herring gulls can take up to four years to mature. First to second year juveniles tend to be mottled brown in colour with black bills and dark spots around eyes. Second years tend to have a slightly pink bill and legs. You will often see them in high places whistling in a high pitch for adults to feed them. They can fly at this stage but if they can get away with it, they would beg adults for food. Juveniles in their third year starts to grown whiter feathers on their stomach and their wings are beginning to look uniform grey. Their tails start to look darker in contrast and their bill are black tipped.
When they have matured, their wings are grey throughout, head and stomach white, tail tips black and their bills are yellow with a red spot on the lower half.
Q5. Seagull parent shows parental indifference towards seagull baby, why?
The answer to this question does highly depend on individual scenarios. For instance, if you see a young gull on the ground and its parent on a roof, the gull could be crying and it may appear heartless that the parent is not tending to the baby but it could be that the parent is simply giving the baby gull an incentive to fly. Other reasons could be that the parent does not want to interact with its baby when you are nearby, they may see you as a threat. It is also quite possible that the baby is old enough to seek its own food and the parent feels that they no longer need to look after the baby so much.
There are many possible reasons so you will need to examine your situation with care. If in doubt, contact the RSPCA or a local wildlife centre.
Q6. Why do young seagulls sometimes approach humans?
Young seagulls can be curious creatures. They may be slightly wary of people.
Q7. Do seagull parents leave when the baby has grown and can look after itself ?
When the young seagull is able to fly and search for food by itself, parents will leave them. Some young seagulls are able to manipulate their parents into feeding them for longer by crying at them.
Q8. What is the best thing to do if there are cats and foxes living nearby and there is a seagull baby?
Unless the baby is threatened or has fallen out of its nest, I would suggest do nothing. As sad as it seems, there is a food chain in this world and not all chicks reach adulthood. However, if you do happen to save a chick from being someone’s lunch, do contact a local wildlife rehabber or the RSPCA as they would be able to offer the best care to a chick.
Q9. What to do when you see a juvenile seagull pacing around and calling for its parents?
Juvenile seagulls will call to parents for food. This can very well continue long after the juvenile gull has gotten old enough to feed itself. This is normal behaviour of juvenile gulls – they will take advantage for as long as they can. There is no need to take any action.
Q10. Should I return a lost seagull baby to its nest?
Seagulls are less tolerant of other gull’s chicks. Therefore, it can be dangerous if you place a chick in the wrong nest. Unless you are absolutely certain, I would place the gull in a short extension room or shed roof. That way they are out of reach of predators. Parents will fly down to feed their chicks.
Q11. What to do when young seagulls fall off the roof and no sign of parent?
It could be that the parent does not want to interact with its baby when you are nearby, they may see you as a threat. I would advise leaving the young gull alone for a few hours, and if you are able to, pop out to check on it regularly. The parents should fly down to feed the gull. If you are able to and you know which roof the gull belongs to, you can put it back up or place it on a shed to keep it away from predators. If after a day and no parent has come to feed the gull, or if the gull is in danger then it may be a good idea to contact the local wildlife centre.
Q12. I can’t go out because of protective and aggressive seagull parent in the garden?
Once a seagull has built its nest, you can not do anything to remove the eggs/chicks/nest without a license from the council. If there is a particularly aggressive gull in your garden, you can contact your council. However, the best way would be to prevent them nesting in the first place. Proof your property, keep it clear of rubbish and secure your bins to ensure gulls will not see your property as a good feasting ground. Gulls will attack you if they are concerned that you will be a threat to their chicks. I would advise keeping a safe distance, do not provoke the gulls and bring an umbrella out as a means of preventing them from hurting you. Once the chick is grown, they will leave.
Q13. What are seagull chicks’ common predator?
Foxes and weasels will feed on chicks. Some cats may also go for a really young chick.
Q14. How long before seagull chicks start to fly?
Dependent on species, gull fledglings will begin to fly around 6-8 weeks old.
Hopefully these can answer your questions about baby seagulls. If you find a stray baby seagull and not sure what to do, make sure you check out this article about finding a baby seagull.
If you have any more questions or suggestions, please leave a comment in the box below!