Millions of children have enjoyed the story of Johnathan Livingston Seagull, written by the American author Richard Bach and illustrated with black and white photography by Russell Munson
Jonathan Livingston Seagull was a bird who was fascinated by flying. He frightens the rest of the flock as he flies faster and faster and achieves all kinds of aria acrobatics. Eventually, he is met by two radiant seagulls like him, who take him to a place where he can fly even higher.
The famous children’s story never tells us where Jonathan sleeps at night.
That omission even becomes the subject of another children’s book entitled Where Do Seagulls Sleep at Night?, which has a lot to say about the little boy Stefan who asks the question, but never tells us where seagulls sleep at night, either.
In this article, we will tell you where seagulls sleep at night. But first, we will tell you why they might be very tired at the end of the day.
Seagulls Are Amazingly Active Birds
Seagulls work hard for their food.
Seagulls dive under the water to scoop up clams and oysters, and then drop them from the air onto rocks to open them. A seagull may also snatch a fish from the beak of another seabird when it can’t find food of its own.
Seagulls find farms on coastal plains. They follow tractors plowing fields to scoop up the earthworms unearthed during cultivation.
The “laughing gulls” of the Louisiana coast follow picnickers, and steal their sandwiches when they aren’t looking.
More than one birdwatcher has lost their lunch while peering through their binoculars to watch seagulls in the distance.
Flocks of seagulls follow schools of fish. Smaller seagulls scoop up smaller fish with their spoon-like bills. Larger seagulls have pointed bills with the ability to bear down on food animals.
Some seagulls can even land on whales coming up for air and tear off a piece of whale meat for their meal
Seagulls migrate to the Arctic and Antarctic to meet their lifelong mates and raise their young.
Then they fly to locations closer to the equator to spend the winter. Seagulls may fly as far as 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometers) between their summer and winter ranges.
Other seagulls have adapted to eating the food that humans throw away. They hang out around garbage dumps, raid garbage cans, and, as previously mentioned, help themselves when humans dine outdoors.
All of this daytime activity takes a lot of energy. Seagulls need their nighttime rest. They can get it almost anywhere.
Seagulls Prefer to Sleep Near Water
As seabirds, seagulls usually find places to sleep near water.
They will sleep on rocks near the beach. They may build platforms in tall trees on islands or in forests near the shoreline.
Urban seagulls, on the other hand, find sheltered locations in barns and under the eaves of buildings in coastal towns.
They may even take shelter in trees in places like your backyard. You probably would not notice them on your property.
Even though they are noisy and raucous during the day, they are very quiet when they rest at night.
Also read: 10 Birds That Fly At Night
Seagulls Can Sleep on Water
Sometimes, seagulls will take a nap not just near the water but on the water.
Seagulls have to generate body heat to stay warm.
They generate body heat when they fly. On a warm day, they can save energy by getting short bursts of sleep wherever they may be, even if they are miles away from land.
To save energy, they sleep floating on the surface of the sea.
This kind of sleep only saves energy (and increases the likelihood of the survival of the bird) when two conditions are met.
The air temperature needs to be relatively warm, and the bird should have a full stomach.
To reduce the risk of being eaten by a shark in ocean water or an alligator in inland marshes, seagulls sleep in flocks.
As many as 500 seagulls may sleep together in a single location on relatively stall water.
One or two seagulls may succumb to predators, but the rest will be able to fly away.
Even in flocks, seagulls literally sleep with one eye open. They get unihemispheric sleep.
One side of their brain rests, while the other stays alert in case the bird needs to flee.
Seagulls Don’t Always Sleep Near the Sea.
Seagulls don’t always stay near water. They are opportunistic feeders. They go where the food is.
They may fly along rivers hundreds of miles inland.
There are even seagulls in places like Salt Lake City, which is 688 miles (1108 kilometers) from the nearest ocean water, the Gulf of California coastline in northern Mexico.
Inland seagulls can sleep on lakes and streams. These birds also sleep in flocks for greater protection.
If you live inland, you are most likely to see seagulls sleeping in a garbage dump or next to a dumpster, where they can find abundant food.
But you won’t necessarily find seagulls sleeping at night.
Seagulls Don’t Always Sleep at Night
Seagulls sleep when their stomachs are full, and conditions are calm. The calmest time of day may be the late afternoon or early morning.
Flocks of seagulls may take advantage of the warmth and feel full to rest.
Seagulls may also take a break when their chicks are fed. They will sleep with their chicks to make sure they are protected.
What About When It Rains?
Seagulls have specialized feathers that keep them dry even after diving into the ocean after food.
These feathers aren’t designed, however, to keep the seagull dry when it is raining.
In hurricane season, seagulls sometimes fly into the eye of the storm, where the weather is calmer.
Before there were weather forecasters, fishermen would interpret seagulls taking off for open water as a signal of a coming storm.
On land, seagulls take shelter under trees and shrubs during a heavy downpour. They may be temporarily grounded until their feathers dry out if they get drenched in the rain.
What About Baby Seagulls?
Baby seagulls sleep when they are not eating. Most of the time, at least one parent will be with them in the next.
Even when both parents are away getting them food, being surrounded by the flock keeps them safe.
You May See a Seagull Sleeping While Standing on One Leg
Birdwatchers sometimes see seagulls sleeping while standing on one leg with their neck and head under the feathers of one wing.
The reason for this odd posture is keeping warm.
Pelicans, skimmers, flamingos, herons, ducks, and geese (but not ostriches) display the same kind of sleeping behavior.
You Probably Won’t See Seagulls Sleeping in Their Nest in a Tree
It is unusual to see seagulls resting in their nest in a tree. ‘
Seagulls prefer to build their nests in secluded places. They prefer rocky seaside cliffs or tall trees out of reach of most predators.
When seagulls live inland, they look for dense brush or thick forests to build their nests.
Frequently Asked Questions About Seagulls
Q. Do seagulls dream while they are asleep?
A. Scientists believe that birds dream during sleep. Like people, birds go through a period of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
When researchers gave sleeping birds electroencephalographs (EEGs), they detected bursts of activity in the bird brains while birds were in this stage of sleep.
We can’t ask birds what they dream about. If they are like humans, seagulls dream about catching fish, escaping predators, and taking care of their young.
Chances are that bird brains process important events of the day so the bird can remember them, and rehearse important activities for the next day—like visiting more garbage cans and catching more fish.
Q. Can you hunt sleeping seagulls?
A. No. Besides being unsportsmanlike, it is illegal in the US, Canada, and the UK to hunt migratory birds outside of special hunting seasons.
There is no seagull season. If you don’t want seagulls on your property, make sure you are not feeding them.
If they cannot find free food around your home or your place of business, they will go somewhere else.
Q. Do the same seagulls come back to their nest every year?
A. Some species of seagulls, like the herring gull, come back to the same nest year after year.
They lay eggs in late spring (May in the northern hemisphere, November in the southern hemisphere).
Q. What keeps seagulls in the same place?
A. Seagulls look for a dependable food supply.
That could be a warm-water fishing ground. It could also be a fish market, a restaurant, a fish cannery, a garbage dump, or a farm.
Once they have a dependable food supply, they look for a nesting site that is safe from predators.
Q. Do seagulls drink fresh water?
A. Seagulls are one of the few birds that can drink either fresh or salt water.
Q. Can seagulls sleep during a storm?
A. Some seafaring birds, like albatrosses, can stay at sea for weeks at a time. They sleep in the air, not on the water.
They catch a little sleep during an updraft, and wake up just in time to keep from crashing into the sea. (Some birds don’t wake up in time and drown.)
Q. How do seagulls steal fish from pelicans?
A. Pelicans scoop up fish and water with their long bills. They have to drain the water from their bills before they can swallow the fish.
Seagulls may swoop down to the pelican and steal the fish out of its mouth while it is draining the water.
But they aren’t so skilled at stealing fish from pelicans that they can do this in their sleep.
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