I’d like to introduce you to Mr & Mrs Homer. 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 this pair have got some time left yet, and with everyone round and about knowing them by name and watching out for their welfare, they are well looked after by the whole neighbourhood.
It was a neighbour of ours who first started feeding him and got him hand tame – and Homer made hay while the sun shone, sitting on their garden wall and just staring into the house until food was forthcoming. The guy on whose house he lives also feeds him, and then he discovered that we were also a soft touch – so it’s the life of Riley for this particular bird as all he has to do to get his next meal is to look cute!
Each year, Mr and Mrs Homer set up nest on a nearby chimney pot, building a scraggy heap of straw that eventually becomes home to usually three ugly ducklings. Currently they are large enough to walk about and have a peck at each other, and in a few weeks they will get increasingly adventurous and start jumping up and down and onto the roof below, and make all of us observers and protectors feel anxious.
As they are getting well fed with plenty of food, Homers family of three usually makes it to adulthood, whereas other gulls might only manage to raise one or two birds to maturity – although in previous years he’s had a baby fall off the roof and another one killed by a car.
Now that the chicks are starting to get bigger, Homer is getting increasingly cheeky with his requests for food. In winter when he’s only looking after himself, he becomes less keen to be fed by hand, and will go for a day or two without showing up. At this time of the year he practically opens the food and takes it out of your hand, he’s so eager.
I don’t know what the others give him on our street, but I feed him on dog food. I buy a cheap own-brand one, although it’s not always easy getting it without gravy or something to tempt a canine that a bird isn’t keen on! Each time he sees movement in our house or someone on our drive he flies onto next doors garage roof and then waddles up to the house where he can have a perfect view in our windows. This week he’s cottoned on to dropping onto the path outside the back door and he waddles down the garden behind me like a pet dog to his dish.
If I take the dish to wash it or scrape the rubbish down the drain, he follows me up and down until he gets his snap. 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.
When we have a joint of roast beef, we soak the cooking fat into some broken bread and put that out for them. We only have to go in the garden and shout him and he comes immediately to be fed. It always thrills me that you can shout a wild bird and he will come to you. Amazing.
When the family gets big enough, he brings them to be fed too, and we have mum and dad and the kids all on the lawn fighting over food. They are good at maintaining order with a sharp peck, and a seagull can actually give you quite a sharp peck with that beak. It’s usually the back end of winter when the kids are big enough and the parents make sure that they go, so that they can then start the whole process again the year after, with another nest and more babies. As they say, That’s Life!
Homer, in his favourite pose!
With the wife, enjoying breakfast