A bizarre sight greeted our eyes at Seal Rock State Recreation Site: a nearly-motionless seagull. You scoff, I know, and say it’s not unusual for birds to hang about doing not much of anything, and that is true. However: it’s somewhat rare for them to hang about doing not much of anything in mid-air. This one looked a bit like someone had glued a seagull in a flight pose to a clear stick and was holding it up.

This little bugger went nowhere fast. It hovered happily while other seagulls (including the fledgeling mentioned, but not visible, in the video) zipped and zoomed all round it. There’s probably some explanation for its behavior that’s not limited to “Because, that’s why.” Any seabird specialists in the house?

Image shows one smaller seagull hovering while a larger one flies past

10 thoughts on “Hovergull

  1. rq

    If it wasn’t actively fishing (that is, making the occasional dive for those yummy fish below), then I think there may be two possibilities:
    1) it’s a look-out for danger or to be of assistance (not sure how herd-instincty gulls tend to be, but I know they flock in large nesting groups, so if fledglings are around…);
    2) strength-training for fun (maybe only half a joke, but matching speed to wind would certainly be a gull-worthy skill of balance and judgment, plus maybe it’s fun sitting on air like it’s solid just because one can… like raptors riding updrafts, I wouldn’t say that they’re always, always doing it just for the purpose of hunting; I think sometimes they have fun).

  2. 5

    I agree…some sort of raptor anyway…just hanging around waiting for a tasty fish to appear.

    I had an acquaintance who could do that in a STOL modded J3 Piper Cub. From the ground he was hanging motionless. From his point of view, he was rushing through the air at 30 knots.

  3. 6

    I see buzzards doing this. They look for winds going up hill,ride the waves. If for example the birds were above the cliffs and the wind was onshore there was a chance for the bird to ride the wave. Hanglider and glider pilots do this with mountains often when the wind is blowing in the proper direction. (I suspect the humans learned this from the birds)

  4. 8

    I saw a crow once doing this, by the side of the freeway. When a big truck would go by, it would let the air-blast lift it straight up then it’d come back down onto its perch. All I can think was that it was just having fun.

  5. 9

    Definitely not a gull. It’s some sort of raptor, and that’s pretty typical soaring behavior for them.

    Which only makes the video more awesome!

  6. 10

    From the broad, fingery wings and the hover, I’d say a hawk. If you were in Northern CA, where I used to watch hovering birds at the ocean, I’d say a red-tail. If you don’t get red-tails, then it’s a near relative.

    Seagulls do that too. Birds that like to hover might be hunting, or they might be resting. I’m sure they like it. I’ve seen buteos hover and slowly rise and fall, without appearing to move a muscle. I’ve also seen them (also gulls) glide straight toward a cliff so the updraft can poof! them up, then circle around and do it again.

    It’s also pretty evident that gulls think hang-gliders are a laff riot.

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