110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Nature Scenes: One-footed laughing gull is an inspiration
By Lynn Bowen
posted Jan 13, 2014 - 10:21:56am
Walking along New Smyrna Beach in October, I noticed one laughing gull among all the other seabirds since it had only one foot. He (or she) did not appear to be in pain or upset, so I assume it was not a recent injury.
Part of an old, wise poem says to accept what you must and change what you can. Those words came to mind as I watched the gull awhile. Would flying be the only way for him to get to places? Would he hop?
Just then, he walked a few steps like he still had two feet and then flew away. His handicap did not stop him from being a happy, spunky gull!
A typical laughing gull is about 16 inches long, has a 40-inch wingspan, and weighs only 11 ounces. This slender gull has longer wings than other gulls, and flies gracefully with his wings swept back as he soars and glides on the breezes.
His black legs are quite thin, and his feet are webbed, making swimming easy. He is at home in the air, in the water, or on shore. He actually sounds like he is laughing instead of squawking, so we know how he got his name. He is mainly white, with a gray back and wings.
At breeding time, his mottled gray head becomes black, one of nature’s magical tricks so other birds know by sight that the season is right for mating. Also, his legs and bill become red at breeding time.
Around May, the male brings grass and other beach plants to his mate, and she builds a nest on the ground about 6 inches in diameter and 2.5 inches deep. The female lays three or four eggs, and incubates them for 22-27 days.
The southeastern part of the U.S. and south to northern South America are the laughing gull’s main home -- always close to water, usually the ocean. Fish and other marine organisms are this gull’s favorite foods, but anything edible will do if necessary, since laughing gulls are scavengers.
Observing birds, mammals and reptiles can sometimes teach us lessons. Some creatures must find a new mate if theirs dies. A few youngsters find new parents if theirs are gone. On television, I saw a large dog in Minnesota “adopt” a young deer whose mother had died, and they were both happy and adapted to the sad situation.
Accident victims and people injured in war are among the humans who courageously live with disabilities and inspire people, just like the one-footed gull in New Smyrna Beach did as he accepted his handicap!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com.
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