I’d like to introduce you to Homer – our tame seagull. Homer as in the Simpsons. I’m not sure why, I didn’t christen him!
Seagulls pair for life, and they can live for many years. All baring a fatality they can live until they are 20+, so hopefully this pair have got some time left. With everyone round and about knowing them by name and watching out for their welfare, they’re well looked after!
Seagulls are fascinating, clever birds. They get a bad name, but their less pleasant habits are learned in taking advantage of our own behaviour. After all, they were here first.
DISCLAIMER: We do not advocate the feeding of seagulls in any public places or where they can cause nuisance. Feeding them scraps in town centres and at the seafront encourages them to swoop and steal food. Excessive numbers of seagulls at the beach can lead to sea water pollution. This also applies to pigeons and other feral birds.
A neighbour started it with Homer, our tame seagull
It was a neighbour of ours who first started feeding a seagull and got him hand tame. Homer made hay while the sun shone, sitting on their garden wall and staring into the house until food was forthcoming.
At first I wasn’t sure whether the bird we call Homer was the same one. Then I found out that we each have a pair of tame gulls. I’ve seen them begging at our neighbours house and at ours at the same time, so they have to be different birds. It’s the life of Riley for them – all they have to do to get their next meal is to look cute!
Spring on the chimney pot
Each year, Mr and Mrs Homer set up nest on a nearby chimney pot. They build a scraggy heap of straw that eventually becomes home, to usually three ugly ducklings.
We watch the babies walking about on the chimney pot and having a peck at each other, then they get increasingly adventurous and start jumping up and down and onto the roof below. Watching them makes us feel really anxious. If they fall onto the roof tiles they usually get ignored and eventually die.
As they get well fed with plenty of food, Homer’s family of three usually makes it to adulthood. Other gulls might only manage to raise one or two birds to maturity. Their problems aren’t usually a lack of food but falling off the roof, being hit by cars and other accidents.
As the chicks get bigger, Homer gets increasingly cheeky with his requests for food. In winter when he’s only looking after himself, he comes for breakfast but is less demanding. When the chicks are being fed he gets increasingly ravenous and begs harder and harder as they get bigger.
Feed my Babies!
When the family gets big enough, he brings them to be fed too. We have mum and dad and the kids all on the lawn, fighting over food.
The first week is a bit tense as they learn how to fly over the garden fence and bushes. In fact they usually bring them to our garden on the day that they fledge and just leave them with us for the day as chief babysitters. They know that they are safe and we will look after them – not that it does much for our nerves!
The parents are good at maintaining order with a sharp peck, and a seagull can actually give you quite a sharp peck with that beak.
At the back end of winter when the kids are big enough, Homer will start to shoo them off and make sure that they go. Then mum and dad can then start the whole process again the year after, with another nest and more babies. As they say, That’s Life!
When your Tame Seagull gets Old
It’s now the summer of 2019 and we’ve been feeding Homer for at least 10 years. We’ve got no idea how old he was when we started feeding him, but he and his wife have got to be knocking on now.
For the last couple of years they’ve gone through the motions of building a nest and sitting on it. They seem to be laying eggs as we can see them turning them with their feet. It seems that their eggs are infertile though, because for a couple of years we haven’t heard the pitter-patter of tiny webbed feet.
A pair of gulls have set up home in next doors garden though, and seem to be eyeing us up for potential foster-feeders. There’s a clear demarcation line along next door’s garage roof, and ‘the neighbours’ aren’t allowed to cross the ridge tiles or they get a peck! Try to swoop into our garden for a crafty mouthful of food and there’s trouble. In the shape of Homer getting hold of ‘next door’ by the neck! There’s only room for one pair of birds at our cafe, we draw the line at Mr and Mrs Homer.
They’ve got three children, currently three fluffy balls of cuteness, who are running about after mummy and daddy. So it’s nice to see babies again!
All year round, as soon as Homer sees movement in the house he’s there. He has vantage points on the roof, walls and fences, where he can see into different rooms in the house to watch us as we go about our business.
When he gets impatient and thinks we should be attending to his needs, he bangs on the window. He watches us go up the stairs to the office, and ten minutes later, we hear ‘bang, bang, bang’ and all crack out laughing as he bangs his beak on the window at the foot of our stairway! We’ve got velux windows in the roof of our office and he’s even worked out which ones to look through and tap on to get attention!
When he’s in full demand at the height of feeding babies, he also comes and bangs on the back door, which is really funny.
He sits on the fence in the back garden, watching us while we garden or hang out the washing in summer. If we have an afternoon in the garden he’ll lie down to sunbathe on the roof. Then he joins us on the lawn, padding about right at the side of the dogs, who are just not interested in him at all.
Homer, our pet seagull, is a gannet for tinned dog food. I buy the cheapest one in the shop, although it’s not always easy getting a cheap version of the loaf variety without gravy… And he’s not daft either. If there’s something less tasty on the menu he’ll leave that on the lawn for less discerning birds – and wait for his dog food!
He’s a very good waste disposal machine which eats all our kitchen scraps. When we’ve had a meal we take him any left over meat scraps, fish skin, forgotten cheese in the fridge. In fact anything fatty or protein based – he doesn’t like vegetables. We only have to go in the garden and shout him or wave and he comes immediately to be fed.
There’s never a scrap of bird food on our lawn come night time!
It always thrills me that you can shout a wild bird and he will come to you. Amazing. We can stand on our lawn and wave at them sat on their chimney pot and they immediately get to their feet and fly straight to us.
I’m also certain that our tame seagull recognises us too. He spends most of his time hanging about around our house (can you blame him!) and I would guess that he doesn’t fly very far away. As soon as he sees us come back home if we’ve been out, he flies to land on the fence to stand on sentry duty, looking through the kitchen window!
One day in the summer we went for a walk towards Rossall School. After a little while we realised that we were being followed by a seagull, and in fact it was Homer.
He followed us all the way to the end of our walk and all the way back home. He’s done it since then too. How clever is that.
I find it a great pleasure that a completely wild bird trusts me enough to come and take food out of my hand, and watch me pottering about in the garden.
Some people might say you shouldn’t have a wild animal reliant on you for food. I’m quite prepared to continue feeding Homer until he draws his last breath, even if it takes another 20 years. It’s just not fair to start feeding in this way unless I you’re prepared to carry on. Don’t get an animal dependant on you and then withdraw your help with potentially fatal consequences. (Think about it if you have a wild animal to feed).
A Good Deterrent
I know that seagulls are like Marmite and some people hate them intensely. But for me, being part of this seagulls life is a thrill of living at the seaside, and I know that lots of other people have their own tame seagulls too, so Homer isn’t the only one. You’ve added lots of stories about your own treasured pets. Read on to the comments below to find them.
Plus which, having your own pet seagull does actually keep all the other neighbourhood seagulls out of your garden. They’re very territorial and once they’ve adopted you, you’ll find that they chase all of the other gulls away. It’s very unlikely that you’ll have trouble with dive-bombing parents and all the seagull behaviour that people complain about.
And for anyone who thinks they are in conflict with other garden birds? Well in my experience, they’re not. All kinds of birds feed in our garden each day and the different species don’t take the blindest bit of notice of each other, feeding practically side by side. That is, of course, until the sparrowhawk pays a visit – then they all scatter!
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