Reader ponders gull sightings so far inland

YOU ASKED:Why do seagulls come to Kamloops? Are they lost?

- Mel R.

OUR ANSWER:That's probably a question many others have wondered. After all, when we think of seagulls, we tend to think of them circling herring boats off the Coast or snatching French fries from the parking lot at a marina.

But Kamloops bird expert Rick Howie says gulls are a common sight in the Thompson-Nicola region, despite the semi-arid climate.

In fact, 11 different species of gulls have been documented in the Kamloops area - most of them en route to somewhere else - and they are virtually indistinguishable from a distance, which is why you'd be forgiven if you thought they were all seagulls.

"We have a fairly strong migration of gulls through here," said Howie.

"The ones that breed on the Prairies, they come through the mountain passes as they work their way out to the Coast. So they come down through the valley bottom here."

A common bird on the Coast is the glaucous-winged gull. It is rare to see it in Kamloops, although there have been sightings during the winter.

"They also get herring gulls on the Coast and we get those, too," said Howie. "They're common."

Ring-billed gulls are also a common migrant and summer bird in Kamloops. Anyone who has been to Riverside Park has probably seen that variety.

The nearest breeding colony of ring-billed gulls is in Salmon Arm. There's also a breeding colony on Christmas Island in Shuswap Lake.

Sometimes, small flocks of Bonaparte's gulls come through Kamloops during their spring and fall migration to the Cariboo.

En route, migrant gulls can feed on everything from insects and garbage to salmon carcasses and spawned roe.

"They get big concentrations of gulls during spawning periods on the Adams River, for example, or along the South Thompson when the Chinook are spawning," said Howie.

"Some of the Bonaparte's and other gulls will go after the fish fry in the spring."

But fish isn't necessarily the major source of food for gulls, said Howie.

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